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Big Shots No. 1

War Memorial Miracle

March 16, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
This is the 20th in a 20-day series on the biggest shots in Blair County high school basketball over the last 50 years. The Mirror counted down one per day until today.

—Buck Frank

Player: Cory Gehret, Altoona

Opponent: Aliquippa

Date: Tuesday, March 24, 1981

Site: Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown

Setting the scene: In the PIAA Class AAA western semifinals, Altoona, 22-8 and riding a nine-game win streak, faced the 29-3 Quips, who pounded the Mountain Lions by 20 points during the regular season. Altoona trailed, 60-59, with 1:19 left and worked the clock down to 15 seconds. Following an inbounds pass, Gehret missed a contested layup with five seconds remaining, and Altoona’s Troy Wible immediately fouled Aliquippa’s Dave Klenovich.

The shot: Altoona coach Larry Betar and assistant Dean Esper moved Gehret off the foul line and replaced him with Scott Filler. Klenovich missed the one-and-one. Altoona’s Dave McGinnis grabbed the rebound, turned and zipped it to Gehret, who took three dribbles and just past midcourt let fly a desperation shot that swished as the buzzer sounded for a 61-60 win.

Mirror excerpt from Wednesday, March 25, 1981: For Altoona fans, this thrill surpassed the United States Olympic hockey team’s victory over Russia. No question. —Neil Rudel

(To view the entire original article of this game, go to


—Gehret: “At first [the shot] looked off, but as it got closer I thought it had a chance to go in. Then it did, and chaos broke out. There was a big pile on the court, but I wasn’t in it. A fan, Tom Duncan, had pulled me out, and I was saved from being crushed.’’

—McGinnis: “I remember getting the rebound, looking up and seeing Cory out there wide open. What better person to get the ball to in that situation than Cory Gehret, who in my opinion was the best player in the state that year.’’

—Betar: “That’s one shot that will be forever etched in my mind.’’

—Gehret: “To this day, I have people come up to me to say they were there and remember the shot.’’

Aftermath: Altoona, in its first western final in 23 years, fell to eventual state champ Uniontown, 80-73. Gehret went on to play football at Connecticut. He has two daughters and two sons — all former or current Altoona High athletes. Gehret lives in Altoona and is a project manager/shareholder at Stiffler, McGraw and Associates, Inc., a consulting engineering firm in Hollidaysburg.

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Article Photos

Mirror file photo by Emory Wilt
Altoona’s Cory Gehret launches his memorable shot in 1981.

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