Sheffield's Dylan Hardwick. File photo by Cody Elms.

North Clarion Nips Wolverines in Opening Round of Sheffield Tip-off Tournament

December 1, 2023

SHEFFIELD, Pa. – In a game that saw both teams swap leads from start to finish, it rightfully came down to a final shot in the closing seconds, where the toe of a shoe was the difference between the Wolverines forcing overtime inside Ralph J. Santo gymnasium during the first round of the annual Sports Boosters Tip-off Tournament or sure defeat.

With nine seconds on the clock, Sheffield head coach Jordan Copley called a timeout to draw up a potential game tying play. On the inbounds, the ball quickly made its way to Leihden Wotorson who had the open shot down 53-50 to North Clarion. Wotorson pulled up and sunk it, however the Sheffield cheers soon turned to silence as the officials held up a two instead of a three, as Wotorson’s foot was just over the three-point line.

“We got the look we wanted,” said Copley. “They executed the play exactly how we wanted it. We got it where we wanted it. I can’t be happier. It shows growth in these young kids. The ability to call a timeout, set up the play you want, and get the shot you want. Not every break falls your way, and this was one of them.”

As for Wotorson, the Wolverine junior finished with 19 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Copley never had a doubt in him taking the shot.

“I think Leihden knew exactly what we were trying to do there,” Copley said. “We knew we wanted to get the ball to him. He knew he wanted the ball. He asked for it. We gave it to him. Again, great look, just didn’t go our way.”

Sheffield ended the first quarter down one, then the second up one, as the two teams traded leads for most of the first half. Wotorson scored all of Sheffield’s nine points in the first, while Austin Fiscus scored six of the Wolverines’ 10 in the second to hold a 19-18 lead going into the half.

The Wolverines came out hot in the third quarter, with Dylan Hardwick hitting a three, then adding another two, followed quickly with Wotorson adding two of his own to go up 25-18 and forcing North Clarion to call a timeout to regroup. On three separate occasions the Wolverines would hold a seven-point lead in the quarter, the largest lead by either team all game.

Up 29-22 after a Fiscus score, North Clarion battled back, eventually pulling within two, 32-30, before the Wolves’ Drake Irwin hit a huge three to go up 33-32 as time expired. However, a technical foul on a North Clarion player, allowed Wotorson to sink two free throws prior to the start of the fourth, to giving Sheffield a one-point lead.

Copley, who lost several senior starters from last season, was impressed by his current leaders taking command and keeping Sheffield in the game until the final seconds.

“It’s the leadership that those guys showed,” Copley said of Wotorson and Hardwick. “The growth in leadership. Slowing the game down. Letting it come to them instead of forcing the issue. Down the stretch we made some mistakes, but I’d say overall we played controlled basketball for thirty-two minutes.”

Hardwick finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Austin Fiscus added 11 points, while Colby Barr led in rebounds with eight.

“Colby was fantastic on the back side of the boards,” said Copley. “It’s a team effort. These guys played an overall team game and that’s what we want night in and night out.”

Sheffield will face Port Allegany at 4:00 pm Saturday, while Saegertown who defeated the Gators 55-36 in their first game, will take on North Clarion afterwards.


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