Except for the Altoona High pep band, Monday's basketball game between the Mountain Lions and Greater Johnstown Trojans lacked the atmosphere that used to prevail in one of the area's big high school rivalries.
Altoona-Johnstown, once guaranteed three meetings on the hardwood each season, has been reduced to one game a year because the Lions are Class AAAA and the Trojans are Class AAA.
Even though they are a classification lower, the Trojans dominated from start to finish Monday, rolling to a 60-45 win at the AAHS Fieldhouse. Johnstown improved to 8-3 with the win while Altoona slipped to 7-5.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Brandon Lytle drives toward the net by Johnstown’s Roshan Fields.
"Johnstown played an excellent game," Altoona coach Paul Hasson said. "Their ballhandling was superior."
Manny Span's short jumper gave Altoona a 2-0 lead, but that was the Lions' only lead of the night. Phil Madison, Johnstown's slick, quick guard, took control of things from there and scored 12 first-quarter points as the Trojans grabbed a 16-10 lead.
The Lions put up 19 points in the second quarter to trail be only one, 30-29, at the half, but the Trojans regrouped at intermission and outscored Altoona, 30-16, in the second half.
"Their dribble-drive offense, their quickness and ballhandling enabled them to get to the basket, pretty much at will," Hasson said.
"We executed our gameplan, and took control in the second half," Johnstown coach Neil Cobaugh said. "Our guards are quick, they're smart, and they understand the game.
"We were able to get some easy baskets, and we fed off that," Cobaugh said.
Altoona had no answer for Madison, a 5-foot-8 senior, who finished with 27 points. Roshan Fields, Johnstown's 6-6 pivot, chipped in with 17 and 5-4 point guard Daniel Barfield added 10 points while playing a flawless floor game.
"Toughness and rebounding, that was the difference," Madison said. "Coach always tells us to be the aggressor and not get pushed around.
"Our disciplined play? That's coaching," Madison said. "Coach always says to be patient and make the smart play."
DeShea Lee's free throw tied the game at 32-all early in the third quarter before the Trojans went on an 8-0 run [6 by Madison] to grab control for keeps.
"We played a good second quarter," Hasson said, "but, overall, we didn't play well. We came out and scored five points in the third quarter. My hat's off to Johnstown. They outplayed us and outcoached us."
It was a disappointing loss for the Lions, who overcame a huge deficit to beat State College in overtime last week.
"We tried to guard against a letdown," Hasson said, "but we've got to move on."
The Lions travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to face Brashear of the City League.
"We're not good enough to pick and choose which games to be ready for," Hasson said. "We've got to be ready every game."
Cobaugh hopes the win propels Johnstown to even bigger and better things.
"A lot of our guys are too young to remember the magnitude of this rivalry," Cobaugh said, "but I'm fortunate to have two [assistant] coaches who played in this rivalry. Coach [Chuck] Wyatt played when it was at the War Memorial, we did some history on it and talked about it and our people understand the importance of it.
"It's not about whose basketball team is better or whose school is better, it's a city thing for bragging rights in this area. It was big for us to get this win because Altoona has been playing super the last couple games."
GREATER JOHNSTOWN (60): Madison 10 5-8 27, Dam. Barfield 0 0-0 0, Dan. Barfield 4 1-2 10, Fields 8 1-1 17, Williams 1 0-0 2, Lanzendorfer 0 0-0 0, Jones 0 0-0 0, Updyke 0 2-2 2, Gibson 1 0-0 2. Totals - 24 9-13 60.
ALTOONA (45): Lee 5 1-2 11, Dry 1 0-0 3, Lytle 2 1-2 6, Acrie 6 0-0 12, Span 5 1-2 11, Givens 1 0-0 2, Hancock 0 0-0 0, Berardinelli 0 0-0 0. Totals - 20 3-6 45.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Greater Johnstown16 14 15 15 - 60
Altoona10 19 5 11 - 45
3-point goals: Johnstown 3 (Madison 2, Dan. Barfield); Altoona 2 (Dry, Lytle).
Officials: Tracy Cornelius, Ray Wotkowski, Doug Moore.
Records: Greater Johnstown (8-3); Altoona (7-5).
JV: Greater Johnstown, 28-27. High scorer-Kevin Miller, A, 7.