CRESSON - There was a lot of hype and anticipation for Friday's Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference matchup between Bishop Carroll and Penn Cambria.
The Huskies were 10-2 overall and 4-0 in LHAC Section 1. The Panthers also were 10-2 overall and 3-1 in Section 1.
The battle for first place attracted a full house at the Penn Cambria gym, but the battle on the court never materialized.
Carroll took control midway through the first quarter and never looked back en route to a 56-45 win.
"What a great atmosphere to play in," said Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo. "It was almost like a playoff atmosphere. The fans were great on both sides, and it was just a great game to be part of.
"Trust me, they are good," he said of Penn Cambria.
Obviously, the Carroll coach has a lot of respect for Penn Cambria, and PC coach Jim Ronan had similar feelings about Aliquo's team.
The Huskies forced the Panthers into eight first-quarter turnovers and jumped out to a 15-10 lead.
"Those turnovers knocked the wind out of us," said Ronan, "and got us out of our gameplan."
"That [early turnovers] was important," Aliquo said. "I told our guys if we got down at the beginning, we'd have to come back as a team."
The Huskies didn't get down, though. They used only six players but all of them contributed to the win. Sophomore guard Brandon Martinazzi led the way with 21 points, Scott Ranck had 11 while David Maruca (eight), Nik Suckinos (seven), Mitchell Madonna (six) and Marcus Lee (three) combined for the other 24.
"Scott Ranck hit some key buckets early, and got us off to a great start," Aliquo said. "We wanted to press their guards, and it worked to our advantage."
Penn Cambria got 24 points from A.J. Leahey, but no one else scored more than seven.
"I thought our defense on A.J. was outstanding," Aliquo said. "He made some great shots, but he worked for everything.
"It was just as important to stop their other guys," Aliquo said. "If we held A.J. to 15 and other guys got 20, then it wouldn't have worked. But, you're not going to stop A.J. He's going to get his points."
Carroll led 30-20 at the half and 37-27 after three quarters. The Huskies outscored the hosts, 19-18, in the fourth quarter as Martinazzi scored 12 of his team-high 21 points. Martinazzi made 7-of-11 shots and 5-of-5 free throws.
"It was a huge win because it keeps us No. 1 in the conference," Martinazzi said. "We have to take one game at a time, but this definitely was big.
"We knew they'd be tough, and this is a tough place to play."
Aliquo noted that David Maruca hit two key fouls in the fourth quarter and he also pointed to the rebounding of center Marcus Lee.
"It's not just one guy," Aliquo said. "It's a team effort."
It was Penn Cambria's first loss at home, and Ronan said his team has some work to do.
"We had to make some adjustments at halftime and did a good job of defensive adjustments, but we weren't able to get the key basket to put pressure back on them.
"They were able to play relaxed and free, play their style, and did a good job of it."
Ronan was impressed with Martinazzi.
"He's special player, and we knew that," Ronan said. "Part of our gameplan was to lock him up and we did nice job of that the first half, but we had to make some gambles defensively in the second half. That left him open and he made us pay. He's a heckuva ballplayer."
Ronan repeated that turnovers were the Panthers' downfall Friday.
"We've got to find a way to get into our style of game, which is halfcourt, pound it into our big, athletic guys and give them a chance to use the skills they have, and execute down low," he said.
"If we're unable to do that, it makes it difficult for us, and Bishop Carroll exploited that very well."
BISHOP CARROLL (56): Madonna 2 2-4 6, Lee 1 1-4 3, Martinazzi 7 5-5 21, Maruca 3 2-3 8, Ranck 5 0-2 11, Suckinos 3 1-2 7. Totals - 21 11-20 56.
PENN CAMBRIA (45): J. Mardula 0 0-0 0, Behe 3 0-2 7, Leahey 9 0-4 24, Keagy 0 2-2 2, Lawhead 1 0-0 2, Schwaderer 0 0-0 0, Tsikalas 1 0-1 2, Przybys 1 0-0 3, M. Mardula 1 2-4 5. Totals - 16 4-13 45.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Carroll15 15 7 19 - 56
Penn Cambria10 10 7 18 - 45
3-point goals: Bishop Carroll 3 (Martinazzi 2, Ranck); Penn Cambria 9 (Leahey 6, Behe, Przybys, M. Mardula).
Officials: Larry Stitt, Dave Adams, Tim Hite.
Records: Bishop Carroll (11-2 overall, 5-0 LHAC Sect. 1); Penn Cambria (10-3 overall, 3-2 LHAC Sect. 1).
JV: Penn Cambria won, 49-45.