By Jim Hunter
Within 24 hours, the Bulldogs went from a one-man team to a well-balanced unit.
With senior guard Zak Price leading the way again with 24 points and getting solid production from its other top five players, Meadville claimed its 11th Annual Sertoma Club Holiday Tournament championship Friday night with a 65-51 win over defending champion St. Francis Catholic of Canada at the House of Thrills.
In the consolation game, Seneca knocked off Cochranton, 55-41.
The Bulldogs (6-2) advanced to the championship game with a 69-48 victory over Seneca. In that game, Price put on one of the best shooting nights in House of Thrills history with a career-high 37 points as he connected on a school-record 10 three-pointers.
St. Francis was waiting for the hot-shooting Price ... and the MASH floor general accepted the tighter defensive strategy.
He passed the rock to his teammates.
Senior Trevor Clune had a stellar all-around game with 14 points and team-high 12 rebounds and four assists — earning all-tournament team honors with Price and his younger brother, Jason Clune.
The younger Clune just missed double figures with nine points and he also was a factor on the boards with eight.
Providing a spark off the bench for the second consecutive game, sophomore Faison McClure also hit double figures with 10.
The bottom line: MASH coach Norm Price was beaming with joy after the Bulldogs’ all-around play.
“It’s very enjoyable to coach kids when they listen to you,” he said. “The kids were feeling good about themselves. Everybody contributed. I thought Jake (Gregor) and Phil (Mottillo) had solid games for us, too.”
Gregor scored four points and pulled down three rebounds and Mottillo scored on a layup and dished out two assists.
Entering the game, Price had one major concern: St. Francis’ press.
Not an issue.
With Price and Trevor Clune effectively breaking the Phoenix’s press, the Bulldogs got off to a strong start by taking a 7-1 lead with 4:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Price’s pre-game worries were gone.
The Clune brothers gave MASH a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Leading 22-16, Trevor Clune went coast-to-coast for a layup and followed with a breakaway and Jason Clune scored on an offensive rebound to give the Bulldogs a 28-16 lead with 1:53 left in the second quarter.
Price took over in the third period. Making all three of his shots (two three-pointers), Price scored 10 points as Meadville maintained the upperhand with a 48-39 lead heading into the final quarter.
MASH’s passing set the tone at the beginning of the fourth quarter. On the receiving end of passes from Price and Jason Clune, Gregor and McClure scored on layups to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 54-39 with 5:10 left in the game.
Tournament tidbits: Price was the unanimous choice as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He scored 61 total points ... Joining Price and the Clune brothers on the all-tournament were Tom Lalande of St. Francis, Nick Dickson of Cochranton and Bryce Turner of Seneca. Dickson popped in 19 points in the Cardinals’ 55-41 loss to Seneca.