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Karns City girls basketball team wins D-9 title again

| Sunday, March 2, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

Karns City staged a defensive clinic Saturday afternoon, resulting in the school's 11th District 9 girls basketball title.

The Gremlins forced 26 Clarion-Limestone turnovers and held the Lions to 10 field goals en route to a 47-22 win in the Class AA final at Clarion University's Tippin Gym.

Shanel Preston led Karns City with 17 points, and LeeAnn Gibson added 12 points and eight rebounds as the Gremlins (24-1) won their first district title since 2008.

Karns City will begin the PIAA tournament Friday against Girard (19-6) at 7 p.m. Friday at Clarion High School.

Clarion-Limestone (16-9) will face WPIAL runner-up Burrell (25-1) at 6 p.m. Friday at North Hills.

The Gremlins often put three players in the Clarion-Limestone backcourt and made it difficult to get passes upcourt. When the Lions broke the press, they had trouble with entry passes.

“We've been banking on our defense all year,” Karns City coach Dave Kerschbaumer said. “As the year has grown, the confidence in our defense is getting better and better. With our athleticism and our width on the defensive end, we give everybody a little bit of trouble.”

The Gremlins scored 24 points off of turnovers and built a double-digit lead by the early portion of the second quarter. Preston hit a jumper with 6:42 remaining in the half to put Karns City on top 16-6.

For Preston, the district title caps a comeback after a knee injury sidelined her for the 2012-13 season.

“She's put in a lot of hard work to get to this point after missing last season with her knee,” Kerschbaumer said. “About halfway through this year, she got her brace off. She hit a couple of floaters early today, and the confidence grew with her.”

“It's awesome to be with my team again,” Preston said in a quiet moment after the Gremlins' raucous celebration. “We were ready to play, and we came out aggressively.”

The Karns City defense held Lily Port, Clarion-Limestone's leading scorer, to just seven points, all on second-half field goals.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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