CRESSON - When one of your teammates is as talented a basketball player as is A.J. Leahey, it's easy to get into the habit of just standing around and watching him go to work.
The Penn Cambria boys are finally starting to figure out not to fall into that trap.
"That was part of our problem early in the year. That's why we thought we weren't clicking. But now our scoring's more balanced,'' said Panthers junior guard Mack Behe.
Mirror photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
Penn?Cambria’s Mack Behe puts up a shot over BG’s Brandon Drenning.
Behe matched Leahey for game scoring honors with 18 points, while Nathan Keagy netted 10, and Devin Lawhead chipped in with eight as the Panthers ran away from visiting Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, 69-52, in Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Section 1 play on Friday night.
The Panthers completed their first time through the section with a 4-1 record while moving to 9-4 overall. It was their fourth win in a row; three of those have been by 15 points or more.
"It took a while for our guys to mold, because of all the football guys coming back. A.J. was used to being the guy the entire fall,'' Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. "The other night against Forest Hills, we had this same exact performance. We played this way all summer, but, up until this week, I haven't seen it during the regular season.''
Penn Cambria shot a blistering 57.1 percent from the field (28-for-49), making 19 shots from within 8 feet of the basket. The Panthers shared the ball to the tune of 11 assists as a team.
"We knew [Leahey] was going to score. Our game plan was to make him work for his shots, challenge shots and limit the damage from the other guys,'' Bishop Guilfoyle coach Josh Baker said. "Even though A.J. played a very nice game, those other guys hurt us. They scored 69 points, and we held A.J. five points under his average.''
Leahey, though, did get scorching hot during a key point in the game. After the 6-foot-6 junior spent most of the first quarter posting up, he opened the second looking for his shot on the perimeter and fired in 10 points with three pull-up 3-pointers in three tries in 2 minutes, 37 seconds as Penn Cambria turned a 12-10 deficit into a 24-14 advantage.
"After I shot the first one, I just kept shooting. I felt pretty hot. I like shooting from the outside a bit more,'' Leahey said.
Leahey, who also had 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, sank 6-of-10 shots, including 5-of-6 from outside the arc. He was so locked in that even an attempted lob pass in the third quarter almost went into the basket.
"If they start bringing double-teams, guys are wide open on the blocks. Those are easy layups, so I need to get better at passing and get them the ball,'' Leahey said.
Penn Cambria pushed the lead to as high as 21 points in the third quarter.
"We talked about Guilfoyle at the beginning of the year, because they beat us the last two years. Last year it was on senior night, just like this, on a buzzer-beater. So we wanted this really bad,'' Behe said.
Guilfoyle slipped to 7-6 overall and 2-3 in the section. Zach Patterson's 13 points paced the Marauders, but BG struggled with Penn Cambria's length when trying to score.
"They flatten out [their 2-3 zone defense] so they use their length very, very well,'' Baker said. "It flustered us. We have good guards, but our guards' size isn't very good. I think we ignored the high post, and, when they started covering the high post, we needed to make better decisions.''
Game notes: In addition to honoring its own senior players and statisticians, Penn Cambria recognized Guilfoyle's seniors before the game. The late mothers of three of the senior players - Mary Ann Conrad and Linda Myers - also were remembered. ... Guilfoyle got 17 points from Damon Rickens to take the junior varsity game, 47-37. ... Guilfoyle returns to action at Bishop McCort on Tuesday, then hosts Johnstown on Thursday. Penn Cambria travels to Westmont Hilltop on Monday.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (52): Irwin 3 1-3 7, Drenning 1 1-2 3, Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Patterson 6 1-2 13, Irwin 2 2-2 6, Fulare 1 0-0 3, Snyder 1 0-0 2, Nardelli 2 4-5 8, Rickens 1 0-0 2, McKloskey 2 2-2 6, Dunning 0 0-0 0, Fiore 0 0-0 0. Totals - 20 11-16 52.
PENN CAMBRIA (69): Mardula 1 0-1 2, Behe 9 0-0 18, Leahey 6 1-2 18, Lawhead 3 2-3 8, Keagy 4 2-3 10, Jo. Myers 1 2-2 5, Ju. Myers 0 0-0 0, Tsikalas 2 0-0 4, Conrad 2 0-0 4, Schwaderer 0 0-0 0, George 0 0-0 0, Hite 0 0-2 0, Pryzbys 0 0-0 0. Totals - 28 7-13 69
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle10 10 14 18-52
Penn Cambria10 23 18 18-69
3-point goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 1 (Fulare); Penn Cambria 6 (Leahey 5, Jo. Myers).
Officials: Brad Eckroth, Bill Antesberger, Cliff Kitner.
JV: Bishop Guilfoyle, 47-37. High scorers-Damon Rickens, BG, 17; Chad Tsikalas, PC, 13