MONKEY OFF BACK: Clarion Beats North Clarion For First Time In Years, Moves On In Playoffs

Owen Krepps

Owen Krepps

Published February 23, 2024 5:40 am
MONKEY OFF BACK: Clarion Beats North Clarion For First Time In Years, Moves On In Playoffs

FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion girls basketball program had not won a non-consolation playoff game in five years and none in the coaching tenure of Sam Heeter.

That is, until tonight.

The Bobcats came out with a road playoff victory over North Clarion, 40-37, in the first round of the District 9 Class A playoffs on Thursday.

(Pictured above, Taylor Alston, of Clarion, pushes past a defender.)

The win was the first time Heeter and the Bobcats have beaten North Clarion in nearly five years.

“They’ve had our number for a while, and it’s been in the back of my mind for the last week and a half,” Heeter said. “The girls knew what tonight meant, and they knew what we needed to be done.”

What needed to be done was limit the Wolves’ offensive juggernaut in Lily Homan. North Clarion’s offense runs through the 1,000-point scoring senior and, with North Clarion also playing without Akeela Greenwalt, the game plan for Clarion was to shut down Homan as much as possible.

North Clarion sports on Explore and are brought to you by First United National Bank — The FUN Bank!

Clarion senior Gia Babington was assigned that task and was glued to Homan all night. Homan still managed to score 24 points, but Clarion’s defense shut her down just enough for the win.

“We knew coming in that they were going to run everything through Lily Homan,” said Heeter. “We knew we had to limit that as much as possible. Gia had to step up tonight and limit (Lily) as much as she could. We knew she was going to get her points, and we did a great job of playing team defense.”

North Clarion led the game, 22-19, at the half and 33-29 after three. But Taylor Alston scored back-to-back buckets to put Clarion ahead early in the fourth quarter.

“The first half was a little rocky. We had a lot of turnovers, myself included,” Alston said. “But we capitalized on their mismatch with Marley (Kline). We really just played as a team in the second half.”

Big rebounds late in the game from Alston, Kline and Natalie Durish proved to be critical in the Bobcats keeping possession of the ball and holding onto their lead.

North Clarion was forced to foul and at the line, the Babington sisters of Gia and Sophie both sunk crucial late-game shots to give Clarion a 40-34 cushion with only seconds left.

“We really just played as a team in the second half and it was fun to watch both Gia and Sophie make both of their foul shots at the end,” added Alston.

Homan hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to make it 40-37, but the Wolves ran out of time and Clarion emerged with the victory.

Seniors Alston and Gia Babington played different roles in the win, with Alston leading the team in scoring with 14 and Gia being assigned the shutdown matchup for Homan. But both seniors agreed that the win was special and that they didn’t want the season to end.

“We want to go out on a good note and on a high note,” Alston said. “We are excited to keep going.”

The Bobcats will, in fact, keep going and will play Elk County Catholic on Wednesday.

“The coaches and I are going to take the weekend and then game plan for Wednesday,” said Heeter. “We’ll roll out their plans to beat them and see what we can do.”

Clarion Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

Recent Articles