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Meadville’s Toney Phillips (center) drive the lane against a Clearfield defender during a PIAA Class AAA boys basketball play-in game at Edinboro University’s McComb Fieldhouse on Tuesday. Phillips scored seven-points as the Bulldogs rallied from a seven-point deficit to capture a 48-47 win over the Bison.

EDINBORO — Somehow, the Meadville Bulldogs are moving on.

Somehow, despite trailing nearly the whole way, despite facing a team that sunk a dozen 3-pointers, and despite playing without their starting point guard; the Meadville boys basketball team is still alive after coming from behind to beat Clearfield 48-47 in a PIAA Class AAA play-in game on Tuesday at Edinboro University’s McComb Fieldhouse.

How did the ‘Dogs do it?

“I have no idea where that one came from,” admitted Bulldogs senior Toney Phillips. “I guess none of us wanted to stop playing yet. Everybody stepped up.”

By virtue of the win, Meadville moves onto the first round of the PIAA tournament where the ‘Dogs will face WPIAL champion Blackhawk. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at New Castle High School.

“It’s like I told them after the game,” said Meadville coach Norm Price. “You don’t get any more points whether you win by one point or whether you win by 25 points. All you want to do it move on.

“But I’m kind of amazed (to be moving on) because it never looked like we had a chance. But we hung in and we hung in.”

Starting with Clearfield’s back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game, Meadville (18-10) was forced to play catch up through the first three quarters and then some.

The Bulldogs started the fourth down 38-32 and it was gut-check time for the ‘Dogs. Aaron Barton got the period started by picking off a Clearfield pass and taking it coast-to-coast for a lay-in, cutting the Bison’s lead to 38-34.

Then Phillips took over, scoring six unanswered points to put the Bulldogs on top. He scored a lay-up a minute into the period. A Derek Cowan steal led to a pair of free throws by Phillips that tied the game at 38-38. And perhaps for the first time, Meadville started to believe.

“When we pulled even, I thought, ‘There’s no way we’re not going to win this game,’” said Barton. “Even after that, we were down by one, I knew we were going to pull through.”

As the clock hit 6:00, Phillips drove the base line for another deuce, giving Meadville its first lead of the night.

Phillips had a similar run in the second period, in which he scored seven of Meadville’s nine unanswered points, draining Clearfield’s 17-6 lead to 17-15.

The junior ended up leading the Bulldogs with 21 points.

“Toney, at times in the game I was almost in awe of him,” said coach Price. “We used him to break the press. We used him to set screens. We used him to score. And he was exhausted by the end of the game. But there were times where he really put us on his back.

“If he was going to go down, he was going down swinging.”

Following Phillips’ run, Clearfield took the lead back with a 3-pointer by Parker Herrington. This method of scoring was nothing new for the Bison. In fact, one might say the outside game was the team’s bread-and-butter, and its appetizer and its entree and its dessert too.

The Bison attempted 28 3-pointers. They made 12 of them, which means they made more 3-pointers than shots attempted from inside the arc, which numbered only nine.

“They were shooting the lights out,” said Phillips.

Clearfield’s first eight shots of the game were all treys. Their last nine shots of the game were all treys as well. They’d just sit back, pass the ball around, and as soon as someone had a space between them and a defender, up went the triple.

“They definitely had a great outside game,” said Bulldogs senior James Ness. “But we got it done inside.”

Ness was a key figure in the Bulldogs attempt to bring the game inside. He made some big offensive rebounds, and had two put-backs down the stretch, the latter of which put the Bulldogs ahead 45-44.

Herrington sunk another three to make it 47-45 Bison. And with a little over two minutes remaining, Barton hit the first of two freebies. Meadville now trailed by a point.

For the next 1:30 Clearfield passed the ball around the perimeter, holding on to its lead. But following an inbound attempt, Meadville forced the Bison to throw the ball away with 27 seconds remaining.

At the other end of the floor, Adam Barba missed a 3-pointer. Ness grabbed the carom and was fouled.

“They don’t get any bigger than that,” Price said about Ness’ opportunity at the line. “I would have taken just one to tie them. But he made both.”

“I knew that I just had to take my time and concentrate on the rim,” said Ness.

Now leading by a point, Clearfield rushed down the court. Herrington sent a pass inside. Ness was there to intercept it with 10 seconds to go. He was instantly fouled.

“When I was fouled I knew the game was over,” said Ness.

Ness’ intuition was correct. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1. And Clearfield bricked two desperate attempts before the final buzzer. And Meadville, somehow, had pulled off a comeback.

“James Ness stepped up and played big in the second half,” said Phillips. “Everybody played big in the second half. Nobody wanted to quit.”

After the 21 from Phillips, Ness finished with 13. Barton had seven.

The Bulldogs were playing without starting point guard Raymond Hamilton. Asked about Hamilton’s absence, coach Price replied, “I’m not allowed to comment.”

Asked whether Hamilton would be back for Saturday’s game against Blackhawk, Price said, “I’m not allowed to comment about that either.”

For Clearfield (19-10), Matt Shiner had three 3-pointers and scored 15. Herrington drained four treys and scored 13. Jarrin Campman also had four treys and scored 12.

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