EBENSBURG - Cambria Heights boys basketball coach Eric Nagel knew his team faced a tall order. After all, the youthful Highlanders entered as the 13th-seeded team against a squad with a great deal of tradition.
All went well for Cambria Heights - at least for a few minutes of the second quarter. But the Crushers seized control with a 17-3 rally over the last 3 minutes of that quarter en route to a 69-49 victory over the Highlanders in a District 6 Class AA first-round playoff game Monday night at Bishop Carroll High School.
McCort (14-7) will take on Penn Cambria, a 55-35 winner over Blairsville, in a quarterfinal game at a date, site and time to be determined. Heights, which started four juniors for most of the season, finished the season 11-12.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Bishop McCort’s Jerqual Wilson gets loose for two points as Cambria Heights’ Andrew Brawley defends.
Cambria Heights (11-12) scored seven successive points in the second quarter to cut Bishop McCort's lead to 21-20.
"It came down to about a 4-minute stretch," Nagel said. "We had to play a style of game that was close, and for that 3-minute stretch we didn't do that."
"We were in a little bit of a funk," Bishop McCort coach Pat Hollern said. "Gap Barbin came off the bench and really inspired us defensively. Really, that's what we are. We get inspired defensively and it turns to offense."
A lot of that offense came from Billy Hipp, who scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the pivotal second quarter.
"The key for us is being unselfish, offensively and defensively," Hollern said. "Our guys did a really great job getting the outlets, getting the ball down the floor."
Bishop McCort led by as many as 20 points on several occasions. Nemo Trexler contributed 15 points and nine rebounds. As a team, the Crushers amassed a 35-22 edge under the boards and forced 20 turnovers.
Isaac Vescovi led the Highlanders with 18 points, followed by Nathan Bearer's 16.
Hollern came away impressed with Cambria Heights' top guns.
"Cambria Heights is going to keep fighting," Hollern said. "Obviously, Vescovi is a really good player. A lot of their offense runs around him, and Bearer is a good offensive player, too. They're two good offensive players; they're very intelligent on how they use them on the floor and space the floor around them."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (49): Lacue 1 1-2 3, Milanesi 0 0-0 0, Bearer 6 2-4 16, Brawley 3 0-0 6, Vescovi 5 5-6 18, Hoppel 1 1-4 3, Lasota 0 1-2 1, Katruf 1 0-0 2. Totals - 17 10-18 49
BISHOP MCCORT (69): Wilson 2 4-5 8, Trexler 7 1-4 15, Hipp 8 4-4 21, Varga 0 0-0 0, Leech 2 1-2 5, Spangler 4 0-1 9, Barbin 2 0-0 4, Salvia 1 1-2 3, DeFrancesco 1 0-0 2, Howeard 1 0-0 2. Totals - 28 11-18 68
Cambria Heights11 11 11 16 - 49
Bishop McCort17 21 13 18 - 69
3-point field goals: Cambria Heights 5 (Vescovi 3, Bearer 2), Cambria Heights 2 (Hipp, Spangler).
Officials: Clark Adelman, Don Ciambotti, Jack McDougal.
Records: Bishop McCort (14-7); Cambria Heights (11-12).