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‘Big Shots’ buzzer doesn’t go off

March 16, 2008
By Buck Frank,
Anyone who picked up a basketball as a kid and shot around dreamed of a game-winning situation.

“He has the ball at midcourt. His team is down one with time running out ... 10, 9, 8 ... He looks over the defense .. 7, 6, 5 ... He starts to drive toward the hoop ... 4, 3 ... He pulls up and launches one from the top of the key... 2, 1 ... and the ball goes ...

“Wait, someone called a timeout, and he’ll get another chance!’’

Ten timeouts later ...

It doesn’t always work out the way you hope.

But the 21 players featured in “Big Shots’’ in the Mirror over the last three weeks faced similar pressure in important scholastic basketball games, and each delivered.

Some used their outstanding athleticism, others their great determination, others their awesome shooting ability.

Some used a little luck, but as local basketball historian Tony Labriola pointed out, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. That saying could apply to all of the big shots.

The series concludes today with Cory Gehret’s miracle shot from 1981 that sent the Altoona Mountain Lions into the PIAA Class AAA western final. It’s No. 1.

Gehret’s shot included all the criteria used in picking and ranking the 20 biggest shots in Blair County basketball over the last 50 years: time remaining (one second), opponent (Aliquippa had beaten Altoona by 20), score (down one), degree of difficulty (midcourt), impact (sent Altoona to western final), atmosphere (fans stormed court at War Memorial), subplots (Gehret missed a shot with five seconds left), how memorable (Gehret is still reminded of it).

Those who have different opinions can vote for their favorite on all this week. The Mirror will be running a poll of the top eight shots and will publish the results on the Voice of the Fan page next Sunday.

The Mirror also would like to develop a permanent home on its Web site for Blair County’s biggest shots to preserve these great moments. We’re hoping to include photos, audio and/or video of the shots, if available.

Included will be a list of other big shots that weren’t in the 20 but were also memorable. Bishop Guilfoyle’s Christine Conrad, who already began the next 50 years with her game-winning shot in this year’s PIAA playoffs, will be among the ones noted.

Anyone wishing to offer input can contact me at the number or e-mail address below.

Lastly, I would like to thank the countless people who helped in compiling the list, securing photos and getting me in contact with all 20 living players.

Hopefully, the series helped show the great tradition of Blair County high school basketball.

Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or

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