Smith’s block sparks Central to big victory
MARTINSBURG — Trailing by six points in the third quarter to an undefeated Clearfield boys basketball team, Central turned the ball over and appeared to be letting the game slip away.
Instead, Joey Smith chased down the play and skied high above the basket to swat the ball away and spark the Dragons. Central outscored the Bison, 30-13, for the remainder of the contest and won 57-46 Monday night.
Clearfield’s bench cried for a goaltending call on the play, but the officials rewarded Smith’s hustle.
When asked if he made a clean block, a candid Smith replied, “Umm not really. I mean it was cool, but probably not clean.”
The 6-foot-3-inch junior finished with 11 points off the bench for Central.
“The turning point in the game was when he blocked the shot, and we thought it was goaltending,” Clearfield coach Nate Glunt said. “But give credit to them, they made plays, and we didn’t.”
Josh McKnight made two free throws on Central’s next possession to cut the lead to four. Smith scored the next two buckets for the Dragons before Brandon Buchart reclaimed the lead with a put-back basket.
Evan Brown drained a 3-pointer to briefly put the Bison up one, but McKnight scored on back-to-back trips to put the Dragons up for good.
“Those were some huge baskets,” Central coach Reggie Nevins said. “He (McKnight) played like a man down the stretch.”
The three-year starter led Central with 16 points but focused on his defense after the game.
“The key was that we really eliminated their three shooters,” McKnight said. “We played a lot of help defense and it was a group effort all around.”
Central only allowed four 3-pointers and Clearfield struggled from the field throughout the game.
“They were up in our face where we couldn’t just have freedom to move like we had in our previous games,” Glunt said. “That’s a credit to their defense because they were in help-side position and they outplayed us.”
Will Myers scored a game-high 17 points for Clearfield. Brown tallied 12 and shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Jacob Muthler drew a foul shooting a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining in the third quarter. The point guard made all three foul shots to put the Dragons up, 39-37, and finished with 12 points.
Central succeeded in sharing the basketball and passing into the post.
“It was just a great team game,” Nevins said. “Muthler and (Kyle) Dodson had five assists apiece, which are big numbers in a low scoring game like this.”
The win marked Central’s seventh consecutive victory and showed that it can play with other skilled teams.
“They’re such a good team so it’s a good win,” Nevins said. “It helps you down the road for the playoffs when you know you can win against a team that’s going to win most of their games.”
CLEARFIELD (46): Brown 2 6-6 12, Wilson 0 2-2 2, McKenzie 2 1-1 5, Hazel 4 2-2 10, Myers 6 3-4 17, Gates 0 0-0 0, McGinnis 0 0-0 0, Chew 0 0-0 0. Totals – 14 14-15 46.
CENTRAL (57): Dodson 1 1-2 3, Muthler 3 5-5 12, McKnight 6 4-4 16, Buchart 4 0-1 8, Karstetter 2 2-5 7, Smith 3 4-4 11. Totals – 19 16-21 57.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Clearfield 7 17 13 9 — 46
Central 9 9 21 18 — 57
3-point goals: Clearfield 4 (Brown 2, Myers 2); Central 3 (Muthler, Karstetter, Smith).
Records:Clearfield (9-1); Central (8-2).
JV: Clearfield, 48-31.