PATTON - The Penn Cambria boys basketball team used a 14-0 run in the middle of the first quarter to break open the game on its way to a 61-45 win over host Cambria Heights Friday night.
After Mac Behe put in a right-handed layup to tie the game at six with 3:22 left in the quarter, A.J. Leahey put together an 8-0 run by himself over the next 1:17.
Leahey hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, then followed up with a trey from the left wing, near the top of the arc, and then put in a layup off an inbounds pass in the middle of the floor to put the Panthers up, 14-6, with 2:05 left in the opening frame.
Penn Cambria led, 20-6, after one as Joel Myers hit a 3-pointer at the right wing right before the buzzer sounded.
"With A.J., he's such a tough match-up. If he gets hot at any time period, we can go on runs that can put a game out of reach early or late," Panthers coach Jim Ronan said. "He got us jumpstarted early."
Heights had jumped out to a 4-0 lead at the 5:53 mark with four quick points from Andrew Brawley.
Isaac Vescovi found Brawley cross-court at the right block for a layup in the first 1:10, and Brawley drove the right lane for a lay-in around the 6:30 mark. The Highlanders managed just two points the rest of the quarter.
"They picked up their intensity," Cambria Heights coach Eric Nagel said. "We had a couple turnovers, unforced turnovers where we shouldn't have turned over the basketball, and they got some looks. It's pretty tough to contain A.J. He hit a couple shots, and then they're kind of getting into a rhythm and a flow."
The Highlanders made a 9-0 run near the end of the first half to cut the deficit to three going into the break.
With his team down 10, 26-16, with nearly three minutes to go in the half, Kevin Lacue hit a layup on the right side of the floor. Brad Hoppel laid the ball in, and Brawley hit a mid-range jumper off a dribble to the right to make it 28-22 with under a minute to play. Dom Milanesi's trey from the left wing with 25 seconds left made it 28-25 Panthers at the half.
"We responded. After going down 14, I thought our kids responded real well," Nagel said. "Being down 14, they could have folded, but we didn't."
Heights got as close as one twice early in the third, but the Panthers pushed the lead to seven, 36-29, with 4:44 to play in the quarter and put the game back at a double-digit margin in the fourth.
"I just told them it was a battle of wills," Ronan said. "Everybody was tired. We were pressing full-court, and that was part of our game plan. We felt that we could get them tired and just wear them down."
Nagel felt his team did get worn down late in the second half.
"We were just expending so much energy to get back that once we did get to three, we had a couple possessions where we could have cut it to one or even tied the game and then Penn Cambria's defense came up with a turnover, and they would go down, score and go up five," Nagel said.
Leahey finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and one steal for the Panthers.
"He was determined tonight to have a strong game," Ronan said. "This is a rivalry game. His class of juniors and this class of juniors have been playing against one another ever since middle school. He doesn't like to lose, especially in these rivalry games."
Myers provided a spark off the bench with 10 points, including three 3-pointers, five assists, three steals and two rebounds.
"When he gets hot, that boy can shoot 3-pointers like nobody else," Ronan said. "I really depend on him to get us going off the bench."
Behe had 12 points, three rebounds, three steals, one assist, one block and two rebounds.
"Mac is our full-throttle guy," Ronan said. "You can never slow Mac down. I told him to make Vescovi's life tough out there, and I don't know what Vescovi ended up with, but I tell you what, he had to earn a lot of his points."
Vescovi shook off a poor first half to finish with 18 points, including two 3-pointers.
"Obviously, Isaac is our leading scorer, so teams are definitely going to put their best defender on him, and they're doubling off other kids onto him, so it took a little bit to get into a flow," Nagel said. "He responded and just hit some shots in the second half."
Hoppel tallied four points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks off the pine.
"Brad's come a long way from the beginning of the season," Nagel said. "He gives us that guy inside to take the pressure off of Isaac and Nathan to rebound the basketball. He gives you the intangibles. Not the points, but the rebounds and the hustle plays."
Penn Cambria improved to 13-5 overall and 6-1 in Section 1 of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. The Panthers host Central Cambria Monday. Leahey enters that game just two points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Cambria Heights fell to 8-10 overall and 3-4 in LHAC Section 1 play. The Highlanders play Saturday at 2:30.
PENN CAMBRIA (61): Behe 5-8 1-2 12, Medula 0-3 2-2 2, Leahey 9-24 4-5 25, Keagy 2-5 4-6 8, Lawhead 2-5 0-0 4, Ju. Myers 0-1 0-0 0, Tsikalas 0-0 0-0 0, Jo. Myers 3-7 1-2 10, Schwaderer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 12-17 61.
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (45): Milanesi 1-5 0-2 3, Bearer 3-9 0-0 8, Vescovi 8-15 0-0 18, Lacue 3-8 0-1 6, Brawley 3-5 0-1 6, Hoppel 2-6 0-0 4, Strasser 0-2 0-1 0, LaSota 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Kutruff 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 0-5 45.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria20 8 15 18 -- 61
Cambria Heights6 19 10 10 -- 45
3-point goals: Penn Cambria 7-18 (Leahey 3-11, Jo. Myers 3-6, Behe 1-1), Cambria Heights 5-15 (Bearer 2-5, Vescovi 2-5, Milanesi 1-3).
Records: Penn Cambria (13-5, 6-1 LHAC Section 1); Cambria Heights (8-10, 3-4 LHAC Section 1).
JV: 41-38, CH. High scorers- Przybys, PC, 9; S. Lacue, CH, 13.