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KC boys open District 9 playoffs by thumping Berries

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Karns City's Luke Cramer scores during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

KARNS CITY — Fresh off a conference championship, Karns City’s boys basketball team officially began its quest for more hardware Friday night.

Luke Cramer netted 21 points and Taite Beighley scored 17 and dished out 10 assists as the Gremlins breezed past Cranberry, 74-49, in a District 9 Class 2A quarterfinal playoff meeting in Karns City’s gym.

“I thought we played well, but there are still some things we need to clean up,” said Gremlins coach Zach Kepple. “We had a few more turnovers tonight (13) than we would have liked, but Cranberry runs the floor well. They go hard and compete the entire game.”

The Gremlins (19-6) will face Otto-Eldred (24-1) in a semifinal game Tuesday at Clarion University.

Karns City extended its win streak to eight games Friday. Aside from its balanced scoring — Jacob Callihan also reached double digits with 10 points — the Gremlins dominated the boards by a 33-20 count. Shane Peters and Callihan both had six rebounds.

KC led 19-9 after one quarter and despite flashes here and there from the Berries, they faced a double-digit deficit the rest of the night.

Kepple said a focal point on defense was Ethan Merryman, Cranberry’s all-conference senior guard who averages 16 points per game. Guarded for the vast majority of the game by Hobie Bartoe, Merryman was held to just two points.

KC received a scare when Bartoe exited the game midway through the third quarter not able to put any weight on his left leg, but he was back on the court for the start of the fourth quarter.

“Hobie’s a tough kid,” said Kepple. “It’s great when he scores, and he could score more if he wanted to, but it’s his defense that makes him so important for us. He knows his role.”

Cranberry (13-10) did receive 20 points from sophomore guard Cole Findlay, but with the Gremlins consistently hitting shots (29 of 53), the hosts never felt threatened. Callihan’s conventional 3-point play pushed KC’s lead to 44-29 with 3:47 left in the third quarter.

Cramer, a senior who missed all of his junior basketball season with a knee injury, hopes Friday’s victory is the beginning of a lengthy playoff run for the Gremlins.

“We like the pressure of the postseason and we’re on a roll right now,” he said. “Our goal every year is to win (District 9) and make a long playoff run. I’d love to go the whole way.”

CRANBERRY 49

Cole Findlay 7 6-8 20, Landon Baker 4 1-1 9, Connor Morrow 1 3-6 5, Ethan Merryman 1 0-0 2, Blake Marchinke 1 4-4 7, Conner Zerbe 1 2-4 4, Brady Engles 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 16-23 49.

KARNS CITY 74

Hobie Bartoe 3 0-0 6, Taite Beighley 6 3-3 17, Jacob Callihan 4 2-3 10, Luke Cramer 7 4-5 21, Shane Peters 3 1-3 7, Cole Johnston 4 1-4 9, Brennan Harmon 1 0-0 2, Griffin Booher 1 0-0 2, Colson Ritzert 0 0-0 0, Jacob Jones 0 0-0 0, Colton Christie 0 0-0 0. Totals: 29 11-18 74.

Cranberry 9 10 15 15 — 49

Karns City 19 13 23 19 — 74

3-point goals: Cranberry 1 (Marchinke); Karns City 5 (Cramer 3, Beighley 2)

Tuesday: Karns City vs. Otto-Eldred, District 9 Class 2A semifinal at Clarion University, 6 p.m.

Karns City's Brennan Harmon drives the ball down the court during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Taite Beighley drives the ball down the court during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Taite Beighley evades Cranberry's Blake Marchinke during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Griffin Booher attempts to reach the basket during the final quarter of the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Hobie Bartoe protects the ball from Cranberry during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Taite Beighley passes the ball after being blocked from scoring during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Shane Peters attempts to score but is blocked during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Luke Cramer drives toward the net during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Shane Peters attempts to reach the basket during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Karns City's Cole Johnston scores during the District 9 boys basketball playoff game against the Cranberry Berries at Karns City High School on Friday, Feb. 23. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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