Second Half Rally Sparks Golden Eagles Men’s Hoops to Road Win at Pitt-Johnstown

Jacob Deemer

Jacob Deemer

Published January 11, 2024 5:20 am
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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Golden Eagle men’s basketball team rode a wave of momentum in the second half that turned a significant second-half deficit into a runaway victory on the road, as Clarion beat Pitt-Johnstown 84-74 in PSAC West action on Wednesday, January 10.

The win was the first Golden Eagle victory against the Mountain Cats since February 19, 2019, snapping what had been a six-game losing streak to UPJ, and represented Clarion’s first road win against the Mountain Cats since November 22, 2003.

It took a team effort to complete the double-digit win over the Mountain Cats, with six Golden Eagles cracking double-digits in scoring. Jayson Harris and Jahmari Hamilton-Brown led the way with 14 points apiece, with the latter putting on a show from long range with a 5-of-6 three-point field goal percentage.

Harris filled his stat line with eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Jeremy Thomas II posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Steve Kelly and Cam Kearney each logged 10 points.

Undoubtedly the biggest shift in the game came in the second half, with the Golden Eagles putting the clamps on the Mountain Cat offense for long stretches of time. Pitt-Johnstown committed just six turnovers in the first half but Clarion forced 12 takeaways in the second, and by the conclusion the Golden Eagles led the Mountain Cats in points off turnovers by a 23-16 margin.

It was a clean game early on, with the two teams combining for just five total turnovers in the first 13 minutes of action. Pitt-Johnstown held an 11-5 lead less than four minutes into the action, though Gavin Cote responded with a three-pointer to pull his team back to within a single possession 30 seconds later.

The Mountain Cats’ lead crept into double-digits before a modest Clarion run pulled them to within five points, starting with a layup from Harris.

Jaylen Shippen beat the shot clock with a three-pointer from the right wing at the 8:12 mark, swishing a trey to make it 27-22, but UPJ scored seven of the next eight points to build a 34-23 lead.

Thomas II brought the deficit back into the single-digits with a make off a pass from Cote, cutting the score to 34-27 with 3:51 left in the first half.

Jahmari Hamilton-Brown followed suit with 94 seconds left in the first half, putting back an errant shot from Cam Kearney for a layup to make it a five-point game. Thomas put the punctuation mark on the Golden Eagles’ run to end the half, scoring on an easy layup after Kelly shook a defender and dished to him in the paint with two seconds left.

The Golden Eagles narrowed the gap further in the second half, pulling to within 39-37 after Kelly swiped the ball from Will Kromka and went the other way for a bucket.

Thomas tied the score at the 16:30 mark, taking a pass from Harris deep in the paint and laying it in. That led directly to Clarion taking their first lead of the night, with Harris making a pair of free throws after the first media timeout of the period to put his team ahead 41-39.

The second half run continued as Harris drained a trey at the 15:09 mark, making it 44-39, and Cote drilled a three-pointer of his own 90 seconds later to make it 47-41.

Kelly scored with 12:17 to go to cap a 16-4 Golden Eagle run, and Hamilton-Brown hit three-pointers in the span of a minute to make it 55-45 just before the halfway point of the period.

The offensive barrage continued well into the second half as Clarion eventually ran their lead greater than 20 points, after Justice Easter took a pass from Kelly and drained it from the left wing to make it 71-50.

Pitt-Johnstown narrowed the gap somewhat in the final few minutes, pulling to within 76-67 with 1:39 remaining after a three-pointer by Andy Zuchelli. He later made it 80-72 with another three-pointer, but that would be the extent of the comeback attempt.

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