CRESSON - Coming into the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Section I opener, the Penn Cambria girls basketball team had a height advantage over Central Cambria.
On Friday night, the Lady Panthers took advantage of that size and length inside to defeat the Lady Red Devils, 53-39.
"When they were playing us man, we went to our high-low series," Penn Cambria coach Rodger Fair said of three of his players that are 5-foot-9 or taller. "Bring a big person out so it's hard for them to double with another post down low. Megan Wheeler in the first half was pretty dominating."
Penn Cambria (7-3, 1-0 LHAC) opened the first quarter with a 19-6 lead. The Panthers used a 14-2 run to gain a comfortable advantage. Senior Kaitlyn Krug scored seven points, while fellow senior Megan Wheeler tallied six in the opening quarter. Pounding the ball inside had another benefit, getting Central Cambria leading scorer Bri Wasser into foul trouble with her second foul at the 1:27 mark.
"Every team that we play against this year, that's going to be our problem because we don't have really true forwards playing underneath the basket," Central Cambria coach John Dziack said. "When you have a forward that's 5-foot-8 and you're playing against someone 6 foot, you're at a disadvantage. I thought our girls worked real hard getting position. I thought they did a great job boxing them out but as far as coming up with the rebound, that was something that just didn't happen."
The first quarter was crucial since the teams were even the rest of the game. Central Cambria was outscored by only one, 34-33, in the remaining three quarters.
"I thought the start was good, we matched up man-to-man with them and their point guard is pretty quick and we just pinched the lane," Fair said. "We got some quick outlets and some scores. We just pounded the ball inside, got to the foul line and scored. Everything changed in the second quarter when they went to zone."
Central Cambria (4-5, 0-1) had a slow start shooting from the field - 3 for 13 in the first quarter - due to lack of practice time because of the holidays.
"I think it comes from the lack of being on the court. The last day that we had practice was Monday," he said. "I think that was part of the problem, just not in the gym enough over the last couple days. Part of the reason was their size. We had to adjust our shots to shoot over top of bigger players and were coming up short most of the time."
Central Cambria (39) Hildebrand 0 0-0 0, Hayward 3 0-0 6, Boring 4 2-2 10, Berzonsky 2 2-2 6, Wasser 3 3-4 9, L. McKeel 0 0-0 0, Stevens 0 0-0 0, Bracken 2 0-0 4, Papuga 1 0-0 2, Je. Shaffer 0 0-0 0, Lyons 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 7-8 39.
Penn Cambria (53) Strittmatter 1 1-2 4, Wheeler 2 6-7 10, Vincent 3 0-0 6, Shingler 2 2-4 6, Krug 7 2-2 18, Link 0 0-0 0, Little 1 0-0 2, Audley 2 1-2 5, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Williams 0 0-0 0, Yusko 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 12-17 53.
Central Cambria 6 12 8 13 - 39
Penn?Cambria19 9 15 10 - 53
3-point field goals: Central Cambria 0; Penn Cambria 3 (Strittmatter, Krug 2).
Records: Central Cambria (4-5); Penn Cambria (7-3).