JOHNSTOWN - A.J. Leahey started strong.
Bishop McCort and Nemo Trexler finished stronger.
Leahey, Penn Cambria's 6-foot-6 junior forward, hit five of his first six shots and had a dozen points before nine minutes had elapsed in Thursday night's District 6 Class AA high school boys basketball quarterfinal round game.
Defending 6-AA champion Bishop McCort, though, found a way to slow Leahey down as the game progressed, and its own sophomore forward, Trexler, scored 23 of his game-high 27 points over the last three quarters to go along with 12 of his 14 rebounds. The Crimson Crushers eliminated the Panthers from the tournament for the second year in a row, 62-48, at the Richland High School Sports Center.
"We were scoring early. We didn't get any stops, though,'' said Leahey, who finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. "We just couldn't make our shots [as the game went on]. We didn't make as many 3s as we usually do. We couldn't finish at the rim, and they were making their shots.''
Fifth-seeded Penn Cambria (18-7) was only down by a point at 17-16 when Leahey connected on a 3-pointer from the corner at the 7:08 mark of the second quarter. That gave him 12 points.
However, McCort, the fourth seed, went on a 10-0 run at that point, with Trexler scoring five. The Crushers (15-7) kept a comfortable distance in the high single-digits or low double-digits the rest of the way, matching the margin by which it beat Penn Cambria when the teams met on Dec. 14.
"Turnovers were our main concern of the game. We felt if we took care of the ball, we'd have a good shot at coming out with a victory. But, at halftime, we had 15,'' Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. "In the first quarter, we played solid. We got A.J. a lot of touches and limited them from extra possessions and played well. Then they turned up the heat, and we turned it over way too many times.''
The Panthers ended up with 23 turnovers and, once they got behind, ended up having to force up a lot of tougher shots. Penn Cambria finished 18-for-51 from the field.
"We were hard together as a team at working the ball, hustling and defense - defense, Coach preaches, all the time. Defense comes first. Defense wins championships. Defense wins games,'' Trexler said.
Although his focus wasn't offense, Trexler converted 12-of-15 shots. Billy Hipp added 14 points and Jarqual Wilson 10 for the Crushers, who will take on the winner of tonight's game between top-ranked Tyrone and Penns Valley early next week at a site to be announced.
"Nemo's grown up this season. He's a smart kid, a good kid. He just has to mature as a basketball player, and he's doing that,'' McCort coach Pat Hollern said.
Hollern put 6-foot Christian Leech on Leahey, and Penn Cambria was able to take advantage of the size difference to lob inside to its top scorer for seven points in the first 3:18 and nine in the opening quarter. Penn Cambria's last lead was 11-10 after a Mack Behe scoop shot with a little under three minutes to go in the first quarter.
Leahey was the only Panther to score in double figures. Nathan Keagy was second on the team with seven points.
Ronan only has three seniors on the team - twin reserve guards Joel and Justin Myers and backup forward Jordan Conrad. The entire starting lineup is coming back next season.
PENN CAMBRIA (48): Mardula 1 0-0 2, Behe 2 0-0 4, Leahey 8 6-8 24, Keagy 3 1-1 7, Lawhead 1 0-1 2, Jo. Myers 1 0-0 3, Schwaderer 2 0-0 6, Conrad 0 0-0 0, Ju. Myers 0 0-0 0, Hite 0 0-0 0, Kost 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18 7-10 48.
BISHOP MCCORT (62): Wilson 5 0-1 10, Varga 1 0-0 2, Hipp 6 1-2 14, Leech 0 0-0 0, Trexler 12 3-6 27, Spangler 2 2-3 7, Barbin 0 0-0 0, Salvia 1 0-0 2, Rugg 0 0-0 0. Totals - 27 6-12 62.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Penn Cambria13 9 10 16-48
Bishop McCort15 19 10 16-62
3-point goals: Penn Cambria 5 (Leahey 2, Schwaderer 2, Jo. Myers); Bishop McCort 2 (Spangler, Hipp).
Records: Penn Cambria (18-7); Bishop McCort (15-7).
Officials: Gary Zimmerman, Tom Fountaine, Skip Dry.