Clippers get first league win in victory over rival Leetonia

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s always nice to pick up your first league win. It’s even sweeter to beat your rival in order to get that first victory. That was the case in Columbiana’s 53-41 win over the Leetonia Bears Friday night on the Clippers home court.

The Clippers took full advantage of their height as they out-rebounded the Bears 29-19, pulling away in the second half of the contest after they led 27-17 at the intermission. The combination of junior Eric Hopfenziz at 6’2 and sophomore Matt Mazei at 6’4 proved to be the difference for the Clippers.

“Our kids tonight, they got after it offensively,” Clippers coach Todd Johnson said. “We have a couple of scrappy guards that get after as well on the boards. It’s something we have been stressing because we get beat up a lot on the boards, to be honest with you.”

The Clippers would go on a 12-2 run to start the second half of the game, pulling out to a 20-point, 39-19 lead with 2:30 remaining in the period. They would close the quarter with a 44-24 advantage.

“I wasn’t comfortable,” Johnson admitted. “I’m never comfortable. We have been in a lot of tight ball games and it has gone the other way, but Leetonia has been in a lot of tight games as well. We pulled away a little bit toward the end. I think our half-court; the man-to-man defense did a good job.”

The Bears were able to whittle away at the deficit somewhat in the fourth quarter as they closed to within the 12-point final margin in the waning moments of the contest. But the Clippers were able to stall enough to bleed to the clock before they could mount a serious threat.

The contest began with both the Bears and Clippers exchanging the lead in the first quarter. The Clippers would finally take a 12-11 lead at the end of the stanza. But in the second period, the Clippers started to find some traction as they began to feed the ball inside to Hopfernziz, while the Clippers guards also made some key shots to go a 9-2 run in route to a 21-13 lead with 4:12 left in the stanza. They would close the half outscoring the Bears 6-4 to hold the 27-17 halftime lead.

Roman Ferry had a game-high 18 points for the Bears on the night. 15 of those would come in the second half, and 7 in the final moments of the contest. Senior center Caleb Witmer would also hit double figures as he tallied 12 points on the night. Witmer would also lead the Bears on the boards as he hauled down 7 caroms.

Hopfenziz was the only Clippers to reach double figures in scoring on the night as he racked up 13. The Clippers would have 11 players see action in the game, 9 of them would figure in on the score sheet. Matt Mazaei would pace the Clippers with a game-high 9 rebounds, while Hunter Zenter has 5.

Hopfenziz lead the Clippers despite not being 100% healthy, “He played sick tonight, he hasn’t felt well, but he had a big game for us. He does it offensively and defensively. He hits the boards hard and he’s a good shooter for us,” Johnson said of his effort even though Hopfenziz had a stomach virus.

“My shot hasn’t been falling for me the past couple of games,” Hopfenziz remarked. “So, I figured if I go down low and try to start from there maybe the shots will start to fall. I got one to fall and then went outside. I’m alright with that.”

The Clippers improve to 3-9 on the season, 1-6 in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference. The Bears drop to 2-8 overall, 1-6 in league play.

“The win is nice,” Hopfenziz said. “To finish out the first round of league play with a win and now you start league play up again. “

The Clippers also captured the j-v contest 49-36 with Chase Franklin and Sean Whitehead each scoring 10 points in the victory. The Bears Ian Davis also tallied 10 points in the loss.