JOHNSTOWN - Brad Hengst and his Chestnut Ridge teammates made it a goal to make it to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and play in the District 5 Class AA championship at the start of the season.
The Lions made it. Unfortunately, Conemaugh Township was waiting for them.
The Indians pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring Ridge by 10, and carried a 15-point lead into halftime before eventually winning, 61-47, Saturday at UPJ.
"The difference was the second quarter," Chestnut Ridge coach Randy Meck said. "We didn't play any defense, and that should never happen with the athletes that we have."
The Indians held Hengst to just one point in the first half and forced 25 Ridge turnovers, including 14 in the first two quarters.
"We started to break down defensively," Brad Hengst said. "We left their two main guys open, and they hit their shots. That opened it up for them, and it went downhill for us."
The Lions managed just two field goals in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer by Braden Hengst that cut Conemaugh Township's largest lead of 18 to 15 just before the half.
Chestnut Ridge will compete in a play-in game and try to make it to the Class AA state playoffs Tuesday against the seventh-place team from District 7.
The Lions got 16 points from Ben Pick and 15 from Beau Bosch and managed to pull within seven with 1:20 left in the third quarter. Pick added 13 rebounds.
Brad Hengst stole an Indians' pass and made a layup that started an 8-0 run, but Conemaugh Township regained its composure and scored the final four points of the quarter to extend the lead back to double digits.
"You are in the district finals; no one is just going to roll over and die," Conemaugh Township coach Chuck Lesko said. "Chestnut Ridge is very well coached. They've got talented kids, and we knew they would make a run.
"We just settled back into our offense and made a couple foul shots to stay ahead."
The Indians will play District 6 runner-up Bellwood-Antis at a District 6 site on March 10.
For Chestnut Ridge, the loss marked the Lions' second defeat in the District 5 Class AA finals in the past three years. When Hengst and fellow seniors Michael Young and Vince Little were sophomores, Ridge fell to North Star in the title game.
"It's very frustrating," Brad Hengst said. "We didn't want this to be the outcome, but we have to stay positive and get out there Tuesday and take the next step."
CHESTNUT RIDGE (47): Young 0 3-4 3, Bosch 4 7-12 15, Little 0 0-0 0, Brad Hengst 3 1-2 7, Pick 7 2-4 16, Brade. Hengst 2 0-0 6 .Totals 16 13-22 47.
CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (61): Zambanini 2 0-1 6, G. Speigle 5 7-8 19, Ewing 1 2-2 4, Boyer 8 1-2 19, Burns 4 1-2 10, Sotosky 0 0-0 0, Fisher 1 1-3 3, Hogue 0 0-2 0, A. Speigle 0 0-0 0, Callihan 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 12-20 61.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Chestnut Ridge10 12 16 9 - 47
Conemaugh Township15 22 12 12 - 61
3-pointers: Chestnut Ridge 2 (Brade. Hengst 2). Conemaugh Township 5 (G. Speigle 2, Boyer 2, Burns).
Records: Chestnut Ridge (18-6); Conemaugh Township (22-3).
Officials: Ron Koppenhaver, Mike Baum, Scott Muthler.