Heading into the start of the 2011-12 basketball season, all of the breaks Bellwood-Antis junior forward Noah Davis were having were the bad kind: A dislocated pinky finger in preseason followed a broken left ring finger from fall league.
In spite of that and a broken hand that caused him to miss several games in the middle of the year, Davis came back and, on Tuesday, was one of three area players to break through and be named to the Pennsylvania All-State Boys Basketball Team by a panel of state sportswriters.
"This is a very big surprise,'' Davis said. "It's always been a goal of mine. It's kind of a dream come true. This year, I didn't think I'd be able to do it this year because of the injuries and the setbacks.''
The 6-foot-6 Davis faced both of the other players from the Mirror coverage area that were honored this season. Penn Cambria 6-7 junior forward A.J. Leahey joined Davis on Class AA third team. Juniata Valley's Stewart Borst, a 6-0 guard, was part of the Class A third team.
"I really hoped this would happen,'' Borst said, "but I wasn't sure.''
Borst led the area in scoring with a 24.0 per game average. The Green Hornet star filled up the basket in every way imaginable, getting to the foul line 165 times (making 107) while also firing in 60 3-pointers.
"I worked hard on my outside game. I hit more this year from the outside than before,'' said Borst, who finished his career with 1,646 points.
Although the Hornets only had two starters back from his junior year, Borst helped Valley post a winning record and come within a basket of beating Bishop Guilfoyle, which qualified for the PIAA tournament, in the opening round of the District 6 playoffs.
"I just wanted to bring the team together and win games,'' Borst said.
Although Leahey said he fell short of his aspiration to get the Panthers to interdistricts, he was honored to be picked all-state.
"Not many players make it from our area,'' Leahey said. "From a personal standpoint, I accomplished most of my goals for the season. I wanted to improve off the dribble and improve my shooting.''
Leahey did that and more. He averaged 20.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.3 blocked shots, 2.6 steals and 2.6 steals, leading Penn Cambria in all those categories. The Panthers went 18-7, winning Section 1 of the Laurel Highlands Conference.
"We sat down after his sophomore year and wrote goals. The game plan took a lot of hard work. He took every single step. I've never seen a kid work so hard,'' Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. "The stuff nobody saw got him to this point. He brought everything.''
Davis averaged 18.9 points and 9.9 rebounds for a Blue Devil team that went 20-7 and reached the District 6 championship game. He was voted to the Altoona Mirror all-area first team for the second straight time this season.
"With the hard work he puts in, good things are going to happen,'' B-A coach Brent Gerwert said. "At the beginning of the year, we held him out. He still was at practice every day watching and running to get his legs so he was able to step right in. When he was hurt during the season, he kept working and was ready to go as soon as he came back.''
In fact, Davis exceeded his scoring average in three of the Devils' four playoff games after he returned from his broken hand.
"I just had to make sure that I was ready,'' Davis said. "It was all psychological. I just had to tough it out.''
Two other regional players got all-state recognition on Tuesday. Westmont Hilltop's Quentin Brandon made second team in Class AA. Johnstown's Dwight Andrews was a third team selection in Class AAA.
For a complete list of the team, including the players and coaches of the year, please see Scoreboard, Page B5.