LORETTO - Luke Gallaher was taking some heat.
The reigning PIAA Class AA high jump champ from Forest Hills High School had two opportunities to dunk in the nightcap of the sixth annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic and come up empty both times.
"I tripped on the one, and, the other one, I lost the ball,'' Gallaher explained.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Zach Vigneault shoots over
With 7.8 seconds left, though, the Rangers' 6-foot guard got a chance for a repireve and, displaying the leaping ability that has him going to Pitt for track, sent it home with two hands.
"On that one,'' Gallaher said, "everything came together.''
Just like his team.
Gallaher's climactic slam was not only the exclamation point in Central PA's 127-105 win Friday night at St. Francis University's DeGol Arena, it also set a record for most points by one team in a game, eclipsing the 125 points the Central PA boys put up in the inaugural Mirror Classic.
This year's edition tied that total when Elliott Chamberlain of Tussey Mountain came up with a steal at midcourt and went in for a layup with 1:15 left.
All 12 Central PA players scored at least six points. However, just as impressive was that the leading scorers for Central PA - Gallaher and Homer-Center's Craig Ciranni - only had 16 points apiece, and no one on the Central PA team took more than 15 shots.
"Everybody was just unselfish tonight. Everybody was looking for the extra pass. Everybody was looking to pass to the next guy,'' Ciranni said. "That's why we worked so well together.''
The winners dished out 33 assists, with six coming from Central Cambria's Zach Vigneault and five apiece courtesy of Gallaher and Penns Valley's Kevin Montminy, who is going to Penn State as a preferred walk-on.
"We have a lot of kids who will pass and a lot of good shooters. There's no one on the team who's selfish. They'll pass for the open shot almost every single time,'' Gallaher said.
A far cry from the 2006 team that included four Division 1 players and six taller than 6-5, this was an ideal group for Westmont Hilltop coach Dave Roman Jr., a proponent of uptempo and perimeter shooting, to mold.
"For guards, all-star games are always a lot more fun, because it's run and gun, especially when you're fast,'' Gallaher said. "Whenever you have two practices and a lot of good players coming together, it's always good to go.''
Central Pa. didn't run away with the game, though. After falling behind 12-0, the Blair County team took a 31-25 lead late in the first quarter behind five points apiece from the Hollidaysburg duo of Jordan Swauger and Luke Rhodes. A 3-pointer and a bucket inside by Tyrone's Jared Templeton gave Blair a 38-37 advantage midway through the second period.
Central Pa., though, came out of the media timeout with 10 unanswered points and never trailed again. It carried a 57-47 lead into the half and pushed the difference to as many as 26 early in the fourth before Blair County made a mini-run.
"It's an all-star game, and we wanted to show up for the fans. They paid good money to see us play,'' Swauger said. "In the second half, we wanted to play more of a regular game and get the pace going. But we fell behind by too much.''
Swauger was the Blair County team's most valuable player. He netted with a game-high 19 points and finished tied with Altoona's Bert Johnson one rebound behind Brian Leap of Bellwood-Antis' nine for the team lead. Joel Redfoot, his Hollidaysburg teammate, also had 17 points by going 6-for-6 from the floor, matching the point total of Templeton, while Johnson scored 10.
"I wish they could give out a trophy to every guy for participating in this game, because everybody played outstanding. I feel really honored,'' Swauger said. "There's a lot of great players here that you read about in newspaper articles. I'm glad to be a part of this. It was a success, and I had a lot of fun.''
Swauger also came up with a big two-hand dunk in the second half.
"I caught some flak from school for no 360 dunks in the regular season, so I wanted to put on a show for some people, and I hope I did,'' Swauger said. "I wanted to show these guys what I could do and also see what they could do.''
Ciranni, a 6-4 forward, was the only player in the game to turn in a double-double, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. He received the Central Pa. MVP trophy over a group that included Gallaher, Montminy (13 points) and Berlin Brothersvalley's Alex Will (11 points, nine rebounds, five blocked shots and four assists).
"It feels good. There's a lot of quality players out here,'' Ciranni said. "I just came out and wanted to have fun tonight. Fortunately, I was able to get some open looks and knock them down. It was really fun playing with all the guys.''
Surprisingly, Ciranni was one of three Central Pa. players who missed the first of two practices, then arrived late at the second because of baseball commitments. He said he wasn't familiar with the Classic and didn't know exactly what to expect.
"I really didn't. I had played with some of the kids for both teams, and I knew they were good players. I knew it was going to be a fun game, just a lot of fun going up and down the court with some of my friends,'' Ciranni said.
He, Gallaher and he rest of the players made it a lot of fun for the fans, too, and were rewarded by the experience.
"I liked it. I wish my high school team was like this,'' Gallaher said.
CENTRAL PA. (127): Montminy 6-11 0-0 13, Gallaher 7-12 1-1 16, Malzi 3-6 0-0 8, Thomas 5-8 0-0 10, Posey 3-7 0-2 6, Chamberlain 3-4 0-0 6, Vigneault 3-13 0-0 7, Norris 6-15 0-0 14, Jenny 3-7 0-0 7, Fleegle 6-11 0-0 13, Ciranni 7-15 2-4 16, Will 5-7 1-5 11. Totals - 57-116 4-12 127.
BLAIR COUNTY (105): Leap 3-5 0-1 6, Creppage 0-3 0-0 0, Swauger 8-25 2-2 19, Johnson 5-12 0-0 10, Templeton 8-12 0-0 17, Rhodes 4-7 0-0 9, Lee 3-9 0-0 6, Schon 0-2 0-0 0, Keefer 3-10 0-2 7, Logue 3-8 0-0 6, Fay 3-10 0-0 8, Redfoot 6-6 3-3 17. Totals - 46-109 5-8 105.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Pa.29 28 39 31-127
Blair County31 16 29 29-105
3-point goals: Central Pa. 9-28 (Montminy 1-5, Gallaher 1-2,Thomas 0-1, Malzi 2-3, Chamberlain 0-1, Vigneault 1-5, Norris 2-5, Jenny 1-1, Fleegle 1-4, Will 0-1); Blair County 8-24 (Swauger 1-6, Johnson 0-1, Templeton 1-1, Rhodes 1-2, Lee 0-2, Keefer 1-6, Fay 2-4, Redfoot 2-2). Rebounds: Central Pa. 61 (Ciranni 12); Blair County 68 (Leap 9). Assists: Central Pa. 33 (Vigneault 6); Blair County 25 (Lee 7). Total fouls: Central Pa. 8, Blair County 6.
Officials: Mike Andrews, Chris Rickens, Dave Heim Jr.