EBENSBURG - Night in and night out, the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference produces exciting basketball. Monday night at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School was no exception.
After contributing to 16 lead changes and six ties, Cambria Heights used a key run to break open the game in the last three minutes, as the Highlanders upended Bishop Carroll, 58-52, in a classic Section 1 battle.
"Any time you can win one, especially on the road, in the Laurel Highlands, it's big," Cambria Heights coach Eric Nagel said. "We've been up and down all year. It's definitely a good one for morale and hopefully it can push us into the playoffs."
With two games remaining in their season, the Highlanders improved to 10-10 overall and 4-4 in the section. They travel to Central Cambria on Thursday before concluding their regular season at home with Forest Hills.
"We want to finish strong," Nagel said. "We have two section games left. They will be very important for us."
The Huskies (10-9, 4-4), meanwhile, have now lost four of their last five games and need quality performances out of each of their three remaining games - at Bishop Guilfoyle, and at home against Vincentian Academy and Central Cambria.
"In our conference, you're getting beat up every night," Bishop Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said. "Right now, we're not rolling in the right direction. That's all I know."
For most of Monday night, Bishop Carroll was able to sustain every momentum swing that went in favor of Cambria Heights.
After Ryan Lauer hit the Huskies' only 3-pointer of the game to give Bishop Carroll a 47-46 lead with 3:07 left, though, the Highlanders responded with a crushing blow.
Heights' Nathan Bearer converted a traditional three-point play just 13 seconds later.
David Maruca missed a game-tying, wide-open shot from under the basket on the Huskies' next possession, which allowed the Highlanders to grab a four-point advantage when Brad Hoppel connected.
The Huskies were whistled for traveling on their next trip down-court and with two fouls to give, fouled quickly.
On the ensuing inbounds play from midcourt, Dom Milanesi streaked to the hoop for an easy lay-in. Bearer finished the 2:08, 9-0 run with another bucket to give Cambria Heights a 55-47 lead with 46 seconds remaining.
Neither team led by more than five points up until that point.
"We had a couple of possessions where we really stepped it up on the defensive end," Nagel said. "And we made them pay on their mistakes."
Bearer was effective all night, scoring 23 points.
"Nathan did a nice job," Nagel said. "We told him to attack the rim. He kept on getting to the rim, getting to the foul line. He's been strong for us all year. That's what we kind of expect out of him."
Despite the loss, Bishop Carroll had a balanced offense.
Marcus Lee had a team-high 13 points, while Lauer finished with 12, Mitchell Madonna chipped in seven and Brandon Martinazzi and Nick Suckinos each added six.
Cambria Heights spread out its offensive production, too.
Hoppel finished with 11 points off the bench, while Isaac Vescovi - who had an impressive dunk to end the first quarter - added 10. Andrew Brawley scored eight points and Milanesi had six.
"This is one of the first night's that we've had something like that," Nagel said of his team's balanced offensive output. "We were hoping for that from the beginning of the year, but it never transpired until this game."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (58): Vescovi 4 2-4 10, Bearer 9 4-5 23, Milanesi 3 0-0 6, Brawley 3 1-2 8, Lacue 0 0-0 0, Hoppel 5 1-3 11, Strasser 0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 8-14 58.
BISHOP CARROLL (52): Madonna 2 3-4 7, Maruca 1 1-2 3, Lauer 5 1-2 12, Dietrich 0 1-2 1, Lee 6 1-2 13, Ranck 2 0-0 4, Martinazzi 3 0-0 6, Suckinos 3 0-0 6. Totals 22-56 7-12 52.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cambria Heights12 10 17 19 - 58
Bishop Carroll8 18 10 16 - 52
3-point goals: Cambria Heights 2-12 (Bearer, Brawley), Bishop Carroll 1-9 (Lauer).
Records: Cambria Heights (10-10, 4-4 LHAC 1), Bishop Carroll (10-9, 4-4 LHAC 1).
JV: Bishop Carroll, 61-40. High scorers-Strasser, CH, 13; Martinazzi, BC, 15.