Clearfield knew how last year went down.
Two games against Penns Valley, two losses.
And in a battle for Mountain League supremacy, the Bison had those memories lurking in the back of their minds.
“We came in mentally prepared to put it to them,” Clearfield center Cody Spaid said. “And we showed it.”
Spaid and the Bison downed Penns Valley boys’ basketball 58-49 in front of a raucous Ram Dome crowd on Friday night. Clearfield (11-1, 6-0 Mountain League) remained unbeaten in conference play, while Penns Valley (10-2, 6-1) has its first Mountain League blemish of the season.
Tommy Hazel led the Bison with 22 points, and iced the game with a pair of late-game free throws. Hazel’s consistent shooting also helped Clearfield build a lead as large as 14 in the fourth quarter.
But the Rams fought back.
Penns Valley trailed by 11 with 1:03 left in regulation, and given the back-and-forth nature of the fourth quarter, the Rams’ prospects for victory didn’t look good.
That’s when Penns Valley’s full-court press went to work. After a pair of Ben Alexander free throws, the Rams forced a five-second inbound violation, big man Zach Engle was fouled going up for a layup, and he drained both attempts from the charity stripe.
On the ensuing Bison inbound, Penns Valley trapped and stripped the ballhandler. Andrew Tobias came away from the scrum and made an open layup with 53.6 seconds left.
The next inbound for the Bison? Deja vu — trap, steal, Tobias layup.
Less than 45 seconds to go.
“They got after it,” Clearfield coach Nate Glunt said. “They pressed us. They did an excellent job coming back.”
“We were ready to clear the bench,” Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt said. “But we gave it one last try.”
The last ditch effort was almost enough, but Clearfield answered. Hazel finished at the cup for a layup on the other end, and Penns Valley’s Logan Pearce missed a 3-pointer on the Rams’ next possession.
Hazel’s couple of free throws and a final basket capped the evening — and wrapped up an intense week for both teams.
Friday night was Clearfield’s third game in four days. For Penns Valley, it was the third game in five days.
Returning home after a pair of early-week road games, Terry Glunt admitted his players’ legs weren’t totally under them the whole night. The coach said that contributed to the team’s struggles at the free throw line. Penns Valley was 6 of 13 from the line in all, and, at one point, the Rams missed on 6 of 7 trips.
Penns Valley did have a productive night from Engle. The 6-foot-7 center matched up with Spaid — also 6-foot-7 — and finished with 18 points. Spaid’s total was a tad less, managing 15 points.
But it was Spaid and his supporting cast that earned Clearfield a big midseason win, one that the Bison celebrated and will surely cherish.
But Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt is still happy with where his Rams are at, with their next game on Tuesday at Tyrone and a rematch with Clearfield on the horizon, on Feb. 2.
“We’re certainly better than where we were at the beginning of December,” he said. “We have a growth mindset. We know that we’re going to get better.”