CLARION, Pa. – Trailing by three with less than two minutes remaining in the game, freshman Aaron Hilzendeger hit a clutch jumper to pull the Golden Eagles within one, but were unable to capitalize in the reigning seconds and the Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cats held on to win 67-64 in Tippin Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.
Clarion drops to 2-13 overall and 1-8 in the PSAC, while UPJ improves to 14-2 overall and 8-1 in league play.
The Mountain Cats held an eight- point lead with just 3:22 left in the first half, but the Golden Eagles mounted a 10-0 run to close out the half. Kaison Branch drilled a three as the time expired off of an assist from Elijah Cottrill giving Clarion a slim 32-30 lead at the break.
It would be a back and forth second half, until Pitt-Johnstown built up a 10 point lead with just over 4 minutes remaining. The Golden Eagles would climb back to make it close late, largely in part to a 9-0 run where Hilzendeger scored five of the nine points. Clarion had a chance late but a pair of turnovers put the nail in the coffin for the Blue and Gold.
Stevan Rodriguez had a team high 15 points to go along with a team high seven rebounds, while Kaison Branch added 11 points and six boards of his own. Big man James Price chipped in 10 points and three rebounds, while Godspower Ogide added a career high eight points in 15 minutes of work.
Pitt-Johnstown was paced by steady big man John Paul Kromka who had a game-high 19 points, while adding seven rebounds.
For the afternoon, Clarion shot 51% (27-53) from the floor but just 4 of 13 (31%) from three-point range while Pitt-Johnstown shot 46% (27-59) from the floor and 4 of 9 (44) from behind the arc.
Up next for Clarion are the Gannon Golden Knights as they close out their three game home stint on January 15th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 pm.