WINGATE - Before the District 6 Class AAAA tournament started, Altoona boys basketball coach Paul Hasson held a meeting with his team.
"We talked earlier about having a good season versus having a great season," Hasson said. "We have had our highs and we have had our lows. To me, this was a great season because I was around great kids. They did whatever the coaching staff asked of them."
After splitting the regular-season matchups with Central Mountain, Altoona knew it was going to be in for a battle.
On Saturday in the semifinals, the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and held tough down the stretch, handing Altoona a 61-51 defeat.
"I thought we played hard, like we have all year," Hasson said. "It just seemed like CM got off to a fast start and made some tough shots. [Cole] Renninger is a great player and created some great shots. He had 11 in the first quarter, and we weren't expecting to be down that much."
It wasn't the Central Mountain team that the Mountain Lions expected. In previous games, Renninger gouged the Altoona defense for his points, but the rest of the CM team remained relatively quiet.
That wasn't the case Saturday.
While Renninger scored a game-high 25 points, it was the role players that doomed the Mountain Lions, who finished the season 11-12.
Junior guard Tyler Everhart scored 16 points for the Wildcats, while Travis Turchetta chipped in with 12 points.
"A couple of their role players hurt us," Hasson said. "In the two games we played earlier, Turchetta and [Von] Walker didn't have great games. Tonight, they did."
Pair that with a rebound differential of 42-31 in favor of Central Mountain, and it was too much for Altoona, minus two starters in DeShae Lee and Manny Span, to overcome.
The teams traded points midway through the first quarter, with both teams playing solid defense. But the Wildcats went on an 11-2 run to end the first - thanks in large part to Renninger, who netted 11 points in the opening quarter.
"We have played a lot of tough teams this year," Hasson said. "We have been down before and our guys have fought back each time. These guys never quit."
Down 17-8 after one, Altoona's Tony Acrie jump-started the offensive attack in the second quarter. Acrie led the charge with all six of his points coming in the frame. While neither team could pull away, Altoona won the quarter, 13-11, and headed into halftime trailing, 28-21.
In the third, Central Mountain's role players stepped up big for Scott Baker's team. Everhart nailed two 3-pointers in the third while Turchetta added four points.
While CM hit better than 50 percent from the field, the Lions went 5-of-17 from the field. During the quarter, CM's Von Walker pulled down seven of his game-high 15 rebounds.
With the Wildcats up 46-32 heading into the fourth, Altoona's Matt Dry led a 5-0 mini-run to cut the CM lead to nine points with 5:30 to go in the game. Dry scored a team-high 23 points, and Kevin Givens added 12 points and nine rebounds.
"Matt plays hard every game," Hasson said. "He can score in any type of game. He did that tonight. He played a great game offensively. We just didn't get enough points around him tonight."
That is the closest the Mountain Lions got as Renninger dropped nine points in the quarter and helped propel Central Mountain into the championship game against State College.
For Hasson's squad, the game wasn't a total loss.
"Sports is a part of life," Hasson said. "I told the seniors they are going to be stellar citizens. They are dedicated and hard working. They have all the tools to be successful in life outside of basketball. We have a solid group coming back. There will be four or five lettermen coming back and some juniors and sophomores that got a lot of playing time. We are focused on coming back and achieving great things again."
ALTOONA (51): Dry 6 9-10 23, Lytle 1 0-1 2, Givens 5 2-5 12, Samuel 3 0-2 6, Acrie 3 0-0 6, Hill 0 2-2 2, Simmons 0 0-0 0, Hancock 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 13-19 61.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (61): Everhart 6 1-1 16, Renninger 9 4-9 25, Walker 2 0-0 4, Wise 1 0-0 2, Turchetta 4 2-2 12, Stevenson 1 0-0 2, Blazina 0 0-0 0, Garbrick 0 0-0 0, Meeker 0 0-0 0, Klein 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 7-12 61.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona8 13 11 19 51
Central Mountain17 11 18 15 61
3-point goals: Altoona 2 (Dry 2), Central Mountain 8 (Everhart 3, Renninger 3, Turchetta 2).
Records: Altoona (11-12); Central Mountain (16-6).