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Ion’s Late Shot Gives Keystone Boys’ Hoops First KSAC South Crown Since 2009

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Chris Rossetti

Austin IonKNOX, Pa. (D9Sports) – Austin Ion wanted the shot. Austin Ion got the shot. Austin Ion hit the shot.

(Photo: Austin Ion with his Hager Paving Player of the Game T-Shirt)

And the Keystone boys’ basketball team has its first KSAC South crown since 2009 thanks to that shot, which came with 1.5 seconds left and lifted the Panthers to a 47-45 win over visiting Karns City.

Ion said he asked Keystone head coach Greg Heath if it would be selfish of him wanting to take the final shot. Heath said he was fine with it, and his senior delivered in the clutch.

The Hager Paving Player of the Game, Ion, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds, talked about the shot, the win and the KSAC South crown.

The game-winning dagger came 13 seconds after Karns City’s Ian McElroy lifted the Gremlins into a 45-all tie with a deep 3-pointer – probably from 24 feet out – that Heath said he knew the Karns City senior could hit.

“We were telling our guys to push out,” Heath said. “He had made a similar shot towards the end of the game at Karns City when we played them (a Keystone win). We knew he wasn’t going to hesitate to take that. Evidently, our guys thought he wouldn’t take it because we didn’t push out nearly as well as we need to on that.”

But unlike 10 days ago at Moniteau when Lake Pry hit a similar shot to force overtime, Keystone was able to execute at the end with Ion getting the ball near the center-court line on the right side of the court and dribbling the entire way across the court to the left side just inside the 3-point arc in front of the Keystone student section. His step-back shot found nothing but net.

“You know coming off of that he is going to his left hand,” Heath, who got an early 60th birthday present – his birthday is Feb. 14 – with the win said. “You know he is going to get a reasonably good shot for him. Unless you have some 6-8 kid out there he is going to be able to pull the shot. The kid just comes through in the clutch. He really does.”

Karns City head coach Chris Bellis gave all the credit to Ion.

“The kid hit a good shot with a hand in his face to win it,” Bellis said. “We changed defenses trying to throw them off a little bit, and I thought our kids defended him well. He hit a good shot.”

The victory lifts Keystone into the KSAC title game for the first time since the 2009 season. The Panthers, who have now won three KSAC divisional crowns in the 11 years of divisional play, will take on Clarion-Limestone at 8 p.m. Friday at Clarion University Tippin Gym.

“It’s all about effort,” Heath said. “Every night you know you are going to get everything they have. They are going to go until the tank is absolutely empty. That’s a credit to them. There are some nights where the offense isn’t going, like tonight. It wasn’t clicking tonight. But they work hard enough on the defensive end to find a way to get the job done. It’s a credit to them. They just work so hard. It’s certainly one of the hardest working teams I have ever coached.”

Ion’s game-winning shot capped off a frantic fourth quarter that saw the teams combined for 32 points, 16 each, after scoring a combined 60 through the first three quarters with both teams’ zone defenses slowing the other teams down.

But in the fourth quarter, which Keystone went into leading 31-29, the lead changed hands three times with three additional ties.

Karns City actually built its biggest lead of the game, 38-34, following a Noah Pollock 3-pointer with 3:27 to play.

But Corey Rapp, who was in foul trouble in the first half but still finished with seven points, answered the Pollock three with a triple of his own 13 seconds later to bring the Panthers to within one, 38-37, and 49 seconds after that Tanner Wilson drilled his only three of the game to tie the contest at 49 with 2:25 to play.

Jimmy Thompson, who had a strong game for Karns City with 6 points and 11 rebounds with four of the points coming in the fourth quarter, gave the Gremlins the lead one last time, 42-40 with a basket with 2:11 to play.

Karns City then had an opportunity to add on after Wilson was called for a travel with 2:01 left, but Nate Wingard, who blocked at least four shots in the game, blocked a Chandler Turner shot with Ion grabbing the rebound. That turned into an old-school 3-point play for Wilson, who tied Ion with 15 points, with 1:30 to play that put the Panthers ahead 43-42.

Ion then made it 45-42 with a fastbreak basket off a Rapp pass with 39 seconds left.

But McElroy, who sat out a chunk of the second quarter with three fouls, continued his strong second-half play with the long-range three. He scored 14 of his game-high 18 points after halftime while adding eight rebounds.

Ian has been doing that for us all year long,” Bellis said of the game-tying shot. “He was in foul trouble tonight and came in in the second half and really made a difference offensively.”

Despite grabbing the late lead, Karns City was down in partially by a slow start.

Keystone led 10-0 three minutes into the game and 18-10 early in the second quarter, and while the Gremlins battled back to take a 19-18 lead late in the half before going into halftime down 20-19, they expended a lot of energy to get back into the game.

“It’s really kind of simple,” Bellis said of the slow start. “We didn’t make shots, and we didn’t defend. But our kids fought back. Once they settled in, we played pretty well. We made a couple of runs at them.”

Heath was especially happy for his seniors – Ion, Wilson and Kobe Cochran – who were all part of a 5-17 team just two years ago as sophomores.

“I feel happy for the whole team,” Heath said. “Tanner Wilson was another senior who I thought played an exceptions game as well. The seniors really stepped up for us tonight.”

Keystone is now 17-4 overall and 8-1 in conference play. The Panthers finish out the regular season Wednesday when they host A-C Valley on Senior Night. The three seniors will be recognized at halftime of the junior varsity game. A win coupled with a Clarion-Limestone loss would give Keystone the third seed in the District 9 Class 2A playoffs. Otherwise, Keystone will be the fourth seed.

Karns City falls to 14-7 overall and 6-3 in the conference. The Gremlins close out the regular season Wednesday when they host Redbank Valley. A victory over the Bulldogs would secure the second seed in the District 9 3A playoffs, where Karns City appears to be headed towards a third showdown with rival Moniteau as either the second or third seed.


Score by Quarters

Karns City 10 9 10 16 – 45
Keystone 15 5 11 16 – 47


Noah Pollock 4 2-2 11, Ian McElroy 5 5-6 18, Jacob Friel 0 1-2 1, Eric Dodd 1 0-0 2, Chandler Turner 3 1-2 7, Jimmy Thompson 3 0-0 6, Noah Kepple 0 0-0 0, Nolan Riley 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 9-12 45.


Dalton Jones 1 0-0 2, Corey Rapp 3 0-0 7, Nate Wingard 2 2-4 6, Tanner Wilson 6 2-3 15, Austin Ion 6 2-3 15, Ian Henry 0 0-0 0, Brooks LaVan 0 0-0 0, Connor Expley 0 0-1 0, Luke Hurrelbrink 0 0-0 0, Isaak Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 6-11 47.

Three-pointers: Karns City 4 (McElroy 3, Pollock). Keystone 3 (Rapp, Wilson, Ion).

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