Clifford wins 400th game
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — With 5:03 left and leading by 16 against Indian Creek on Saturday night, St. Clairsville head coach Kim Clifford called time out.
Then, with 3:37 remaining, and his team up by 14, he called time again.
Why would a coach, whose team is leading by double digits, call two timeouts within a 1:26 span late in the fourth quarter?
“I just told (the players) this is the time in the game where you have to take it upon yourself to guard your guy,” Clifford said.
“The game’s never over and the learning and understanding of the game is never over.”
In other words, he was still coaching … and teaching.
Maybe that’s why he’s won 400 games as a varsity head coach.
Clifford reached the milestone with a 49-33 Buckeye 8 triumph against the Redskins before the home faithful on John Jenkins Court. It took two tries to get past 399, but the first game of 2014 did the trick.
Truthfully, Clifford took the event in stride.
“It makes you think of all the players you’ve coached and of all the coaches you’ve coached with,” he said. “It’s one game at a time. I know that’s cliche, but just the memories of all the kids I’ve had the privilege to coach are what stick out.”
Clifford as had a seat on the bench for 38 years, 27 as a head coach. He acknowledges every season is different and that’s what makes the profession so gratifying.
“I was talking with my wife the other day and I think I’ve coached around 800 varsity games,” Clifford said. “I’ve been fortunate I’ve been able to stay around this long.”
Saturday night’s victory — St. Clairsville’s fifth in eight tries — was all about defense.
After taking a 13-9 lead after the first quarter, the Red Devils held the Redskins (3-5) to two field goals and eight points combined in the second and third periods.
In fact, St. C. won the second period 12-2. The only Redskins points came from Cody Durbin on a pair of free throws with 3.5 ticks left.
“You have to give the other team credit for how they played defensively,” Indian Creek head coach Joe Dunlevy said bluntly. “I think we have some pretty good shooters and they got after us pretty good.”
Time and time again during the second quarter, the Redskins tried to get the ball into the post. And when they did, there were two and, sometimes, three Red Devils defenders waiting.
The outside shots weren’t dropping either.
“We missed shots, but they were the cause of that,” Dunlevy continued. “I think if we were out of sync it was because of the team in the white uniforms.”
Meanwhile, the shots were dropping for the Red Devils. A 3-pointer by Michael Scarnecchia (he finished with three), along with buckets from Jared Derosa and Joel Giffin increased St. C.’s lead to 25-9 and, for all intents and purposes, put the game away.
“I told the kids we’re getting better on offense and, hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll be there,” Clifford said.
“But we are really guarding right now. I was very pleased with the defensive effort.”
That effort continued into the third quarter. Another Scarnecchia trifecta — part of his game-high 14 points — gave the Red Devils their largest lead of the night at 23 — 40-17 — early in the fourth quarter.
From there, the Redskins went on a 10-1 run, keyed by four points from Andrew Anderson that drew Creek to within 14 at 41-27. But that’s as close as the score got.
Jonathan Haught paced the Redskins with eight points.
“This was big for the kid’s confidence,” Clifford said. “I kept telling them I really wasn’t as concerned about the score as much as I was improving and playing the different player combinations.
“Defensively, we’re playing pretty well. And, on offense, we’re starting to improve.”
St. Clairsville 49, Indian Creek 33
I — Foldi 1 2-2 4; Roar 1 0-0 3; Wade 0 0-0 0; Haught 4 0-0 8; Hujnh 0 0-0 0; Greco 0 0-0 0; Anderson 2 0-2 4; Durbin 2 2-2 7; Coppa 0 0-0 0; Starkey 1 0-0 2; Woodbury 2 0-2 5. Totals 13 4-8 33.
S — Trouten 2 2-4 7; Derosa 4 0-2 8; Giffin 3 0-0 6; Ferns 1 1-2 3; Panepucci 1 0-0 3; Bosworth 0 0-0 0; Buchanan 2 4-5 8; Monteroso 0 0-0 0; McCort 0 0-0 0; Hothem 0 0-0 0; Scarnecchia 4 3-3 14. Totals 17 10-16 49.
3-Point Goals: Roar, Durbin, Woodbury; Scarnecchia 3, Panepucci, Trouten.