EDINBORO — Altoona boys basketball coach Larry Betar felt the numbers game might have caused match-up problems for his team in the Mountain Lions’ 57-45 loss to District 10 champion McDowell in Saturday’s PIAA Class AAAA sub-regional game at General McLane High School.
‘‘We’ve had a depth problem all year in that we can’t bring another big kid off the bench like a team like McDowell can,’’ Betar said after the Lions’ season had concluded at 16-10. ‘‘That left the numbers in McDowell’s favor.’’
Forced to play his starters practically the entire first half without a rest, while McDowell was able to substitute freely, the twice-beaten Trojans (25-2) jumped to leads of 16-10 at the end of the first quarter and 26-18 at the half. Betar did not make his first substitution until the 5:05 mark of the second quarter.
For McDowell, it was a matter of not having a letdown after its emotional 64-50 victory over arch-rival Cathedral Prep in Wednesday’s D-10 championship game.
‘‘Coach (Kraig Hetz) would not allow that,’’ Dillon Loomis, a 6-foot senior guard, said after scoring 14 points, and picking up much of the slack when McDowell scoring leader Zach Spronatti (15.1 ppg) showed up at the game not feeling well.
Hetz, in his second year at McDowell who was the one-time coach for the Mountain Lions, said that it was foremost on his mind not to allow the Trojans to dwell on their big victory against Prep, and instead forget about it and concentrate on his former team.
‘‘We got after them in practice about that all week,’’ Hetz said. ‘‘Plus, we corrected some defensive mistakes that we made in the Prep game. They kept focused, and did a nice job today.’’
Loomis seemed to send a no-letdown-allowed message by nailing a 3-pointer for the game’s first points. He later hit three more times from beyond the arc.
‘‘With Spronatti, who we rely so much on for scoring, not feeling well, Dillon certainly picked it up for us,’’ Hetz said. ‘‘But that’s been the characteristic of this team, when somebody struggles, somebody always seems to pick it up.’’
Jason Keim, a strong 6-foot-5 junior forward, who had a game-high 17 points, led the Trojans with 12 in the first half, where they built a 26-18 lead.
After Spronatti opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, his game’s first points, Loomis issued dagger-like blows with two more threes that put a serious damper on any comeback by Altoona.
Loomis’ fourth three of the game, which came with 1.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter, increased the Trojans’ lead to 39-25, and they coasted from there.
Betar also felt that Altoona’s heartbreaking 66-56 overtime loss to State College in Wednesday’s D-6 championship game, which sent the Lions on the road on Saturday, might have been a factor.
‘‘I don’t know if losing like we did on Wednesday was a factor, but we had to travel a long way today rather than staying home, which is the consequence,’’ Betar said.
‘‘We fought as long and as hard as we could, but there were just too many obstacles to overcome.’’
Altoona senior Luke Colledge, who finished with nine points, all on 3-pointers, agreed that the crushing loss to State College was tough on the Lions. But he said that they were ready on Saturday.
‘‘That was a tough one to swallow, ’’ Colledge said. ‘‘But we had a good deal of time off after that, and I think we came ready to play today. We had a good game plan and were moving the ball well, but we just couldn’t get our shots to drop at times. We just came up short at the end.’’
Jason Keim, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, who had a game-high 17 points, led the Trojans with 12 in the first half, where they built their eight-point lead at intermission.
Ryan Skellie added 10 points for McDowell, which never trailed. Eight players ended up scoring for the Trojans.
Alex Raymond and Anthony Lytle led Altoona with 16 points apiece. Just four players scored for the Lions.
McDowell next heads to the first round of PIAA inter-district play, where it will meet the No. 4 team from District 7.
ALTOONA (45): B.Gehret 0 0-0 0, Angle 0 0-0 0, Irby 0 0-0 0, Raymond 6 1-1 16, L.Colledge 3 0-0 9, Burkett 0 0-0 0, M.Gehret 2 0-0 4, Lytle 4 8-10 16. Totals 15 9-11 45.
MCDOWELL (57): Amendola 0 0-0 0, Spronatti 3 0-0 8, Hansen 0 1-2 1, Stano 2 0-0 4, Kimball 0 0-0 0, Loomis 5 0-0 14, Letto 0 1-2 1, Keim 6 5-9 17, Skellie 4 2-2 10, Franz 0 2-2 2, Baker 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 11-17 57.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 10 8 7 20 — 45
McDowell 16 10 13 18 — 57
3-point goals: Altoona 6 (Raymond 3, L.Colledge 3), McDowell 6 (Loomis 4, Spronatti 2).
Records: McDowell (25-2); Altoona (16-10)