By Jim Hunter
Dog-gone foul trouble.
Playing without Jason Clune and Jake Gregor good portions of the second half due to foul trouble, Meadville dropped a 69-59 decision to Seneca on Friday night in the opening round of the annual Sertoma Holiday Basketball Tournament at the House of Thrills.
The Bulldogs (2-5) will play Cochranton — which suffered a 58-54 loss to St. Francis Catholic of Canada — tonight at 6 in the consolation game. Seneca (4-2) faces St. Francis for the tournament championship at 7:30 p.m.
Continuing its trend of nip-and-tuck games, the MASH unit had a legitimate excuse for swallowing another tough loss.
Trailing 32-29 with 7:27 left in the third quarter, Clune — who scored seven early points to give the Bulldogs a 16-9 lead — was called for his third personal foul and MASH coach Mark McElhinny elected to sit him for the remainder of the quarter.
McElhinny found some positives with his leading gun Clune sitting on the bench.
Establishing himself as MASH’s go-to player, Gregor scored on consecutive layups and perfectly set up Armoni Foster for a 3-pointer to give the ’Dogs a 40-34 lead with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Enter the whistle again.
Clinging to a 44-39 lead, Gregor picked up his fourth personal foul with 1:59 showing in the third quarter and McElhinny had no choice but to sit him too.
Seneca jumped on the Clune/Gregor-less Bulldogs.
The Bobcats’ Gus Johnson went inside and scored twice to cut MASH’s lead to 44-43 heading into the final period.
McElhinny inserted both Clune and Gregor back into the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter and the duo made an immediate impact as Gregor fed Clune with a razor-sharp pass and the sophomore sensation completed a three-point play to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 47-43 with 7:27 left in the game.
After Seneca scored six straight points to take a 49-47 lead, Clune — getting a friendly bounce from the rim — popped in a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Bulldogs a 50-49 lead with 6:01 showing on the clock.
Enter the dog-gone whistle again.
Driving to the hoop, Gregor — who was having a solid all-around game — was called for his fifth personal foul with 5:28 left in the game. The versatile Gregor finished with 11 points, four assists and three steals.
The Bulldogs felt the loss of Gregor.
Completely taking over the game, Seneca’s Jarrett Pound — who transferred from Cathedral Prep — scored nine straight points to give the Bobcats a 58-53 lead with 2:38 left in the game.
The smooth-shooting Pound — who threw down a dunk in the first half — finished with a game-high 31 points.
McElhinny was well aware of Pound’s elite skills heading into the game.
“We saw him play and we knew what to expect,” said the Bulldogs’ first-year coach. “He is an exceptional player.”
The ’Dogs never recovered from Pound’s stomping.
Obviously, McElhinny touched on the Bulldogs’ foul trouble first thing afterwards, “We need to play smarter ball early. I had to keep an eye on Jason, Jake and even Faizon (McClure) throughout the game.”
Concluding, the MASH boss looked at the bigger picture, “I told the kids afterwards that they have to realize this a Christmas tournament. We need to stay together during this break and our main goal is to be ready to play when the league starts up.”
Despite the foul problems, Clune had another strong game with a team-high 24 points. He was 4-for-8 from 3-point range.