A.J. Blubaugh

Clear Fork's A.J. Blubaugh looks to shoot over Shelby's Uriah Schwemley during Thursday's Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game at Shelby High School.

SHELBY — Clear Fork tightened its stranglehold on the top spot in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference standings, but Shelby made the Colts work harder than expected.

Brennan South scored 21 points and Clear Fork withstood a spirited second-half comeback by the Whippets in a 62-58 win Thursday at Shelby High School.

The Colts (11-2, 8-0) led 37-21 at the half and 39-21 with six minutes remaining in the third before the the Whippets (7-7, 3-5) came to life. Shelby outscored Clear Fork 15-7 the rest of the third and opened the fourth on a 17-6 run, taking a 53-52 lead — its first of the night — on a Uriah Schwemley layup with 3:07 to play.

A coast-to-coast layup by South after a Clear Fork timeout gave the Colts the lead for good with 2:48 to go.

“I just thought our team needed a basket,” said South, who scored six points in the fourth. “Everyone relies on me and I rely on everyone else, too. If everyone is not there (for each other) we’re not finishing that game.”

Clear Fork coach Steve Bechtel wasn’t surprised to see South take and make the biggest shot of the night.

“He wants to take that shot. He thrives in those types of moments,” Bechtel said. “He had the confidence in himself, I think his teammates have the confidence in him and we as a coaching staff do as well.”

A layup by Clear Fork’s A.J. Blubaugh gave the Colts a 56-53 lead with about two minutes to play, but Shelby’s T.J. Pugh cut the deficit to 56-55 with a layup with 1:27 to go. Clear Fork’s Brady Tedrow pushed the advantage to 58-55 and came up with a steal at the defensive end that resulted in a pair of South free throws with 39 seconds to play to make it 60-55.

T.J. Pugh

Shelby's T.J. Pugh squeezes a pass between Clear Fork's A.J. Blubaugh and Brady Tedrow during Thursday's Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game at Shelby High School.

A 3-pointer by Shelby’s Grant Gossom cut Clear Fork’s lead to 60-58 with 29 seconds remaining. Clear Fork’s Jared Schaefer responded with a scrambling layup with 14 seconds to go to make it 62-58. Schaefer misfired on the front end of a 1-and-1 situation with seven seconds left, but a desperation 3 by Schwemley was off-line, as was Cody Lantz’s outback attempt as time expired.

“We went to more of a five-out spread offense and put five guards (on the floor) to try to get quicker,” Shelby coach Troy Schwemley said of his team’s second-half surge. “We take the lead and they take a timeout out and we let South go right down the floor and score a layup. We’ve got to defend better there.”

Jared Schaefer

Clear Fork's Jared Schaefer drives for a layup against Shelby's Kobe Green during Thursday's Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game at Shelby High School.

Schaefer backed South with 14 points while Jay Swainhart added 10, including a critical corner trey after Shelby had tied the score at 49-49 midway through the fourth quarter.

“That was a huge shot,” Bechtel said. “I know he has hit quite a few shots for us over the years, but that might be the biggest one of his career.”

Pugh led the Whippets with 21 points. Gossom added 12.

“We still don’t shoot well. We’re 3 of whatever from the 3-point line,” Troy Schwemley said. “To lose by four and not shoot well and not get to the free throw line … we’ve just got to find a way to overcome a couple of those obstacles.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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