TYRONE - Three weeks ago, Tyrone's chances at winning a Mountain League title seemed slim.
A double-overtime loss to Bald Eagle Area left coach George Gripp frustrated and the Golden Eagles two games behind a pair of undefeated teams.
Friday night, Gripp was in a much better mood while discussing his squad's 67-50 win over Central that kept Tyrone in control of its own destiny. The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead, held a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter and then outscored the Scarlet Dragons 27-14 in the final quarter to pull away.
"We have come into practice and worked hard every day," George Gripp said. "We worked on the things we needed to work on. We watched some tapes and knew our rebounding had to get better. In Huntingdon this week, we outrebounded them by 30, and that's almost unheard of in high school basketball.
"We're rebounding now and keeping it to one-and-done, and on defense guys are taking more pride in what they are doing."
Brandon Gripp continued his recent torrid scoring pace, following up his 39-point performance against Huntingdon with a 31-point effort Friday.
A loss to Central in Martinsburg earlier in the season helped contribute to Tyrone's early hole in the standings, but the Dragons' 62-36 win over Penns Valley on Wednesday actually put the Golden Eagles (15-3) in control of the Mountain League.
Penns Valley and Tyrone are both 9-2 in the league, but the Eagles topped the Rams earlier in the year.
In that loss to the Scarlet Dragons (10-6), Tyrone let a few key rebounds slip from its hands, but in the rematch, Erik Wagner and Anthony Politza made a difference in the paint. Wagner finished with a game-high 10 rebounds, and the Golden Eagles outrebounded Central, 31-19.
"Central is a little undersized, but they thrive on sending little guys into the post to battle for rebounds," Wagner said. "They hack at your arms and try to get the ball loose. So it was key for us to be physical on the boards tonight and make sure we secured it."
The Golden Eagles also got a lift from Tristan Lingafelt, who connected on three 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 14 points.
The Scarlet Dragons tallest player, Lucas Patterson, led Central with six rebounds and scored nine points. Patterson was injured during the previous game against Tyrone and missed some action along with senior guard Austin Cunningham, who also played Friday.
"They are a good team, and we're a good team," Central coach Reggie Nevins said. "We're the only team in the league who's beaten everybody, so we know we can. We're just getting back to being healthy and getting everybody on the same page."
Tyrone built several nine-point leads in the game, but each time Central chipped away despite never taking the lead. Late in the third quarter, the Scarlet Dragons trailed by just one.
"We knew these guys were a solid team that was going to hang around," George Gripp said. "The thing that was frustrating is that we'd turn it big-time our way and then we'd make some careless passes. I thought once we shortened our passing lanes, that obviously helped.
"Once it got to crunch time, we put the ball into Brandon's hands, and he did the rest."
Gripp finished 15-of-16 from the foul line, only hitting the rim once - on his lone miss.
"Gripp must have shot 50 foul shots," Nevins said. "He went to the foul line an awful lot, but whatever. I'm not going to comment on that, but if that would have been our point guard shooting 40 foul shots, we would have won."
Zach Slagenweit led the Dragons with 12 points.
Central will host Forest Hills in a non-league game tonight, and Tyrone hosts Mountain League foe Clearfield Wednesday in its next game.
CENTRAL (50): Cunningham 4 0-1 8, Slagenweit 3 4-4 12, Lafferty 3 1-3 9, Brumbaugh 0 0-0 0, Patterson 4 1-5 9, Mills 1 6-6 8, Forshey 0 0-0 0, Gahagan 0 0-0 0, Vollkommer 1 2-2 4. Totals - 16 14-21 50.
TYRONE (67): Lingafelt 4 2-3 14, Politza 2 2-4 6, Wagner 3 1-2 7, Miller 4 0-0 9, Gripp 7 15-16 31, McKeehen 0 0-0 0, N. Soellner 0 0-0 0. Totals - 20 20-25 67.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central14 14 8 14 - 50
Tyrone18 13 9 27 - 67
3-point goals: Central 4 (Slagenweit 2, Lafferty 2); Tyrone 7 (Lingafelt 4, Gripp 2, Miller).
Records: Central (10-6, 7-4 in Mountain League); Tyrone (15-3, 9-2 in Mountain League).
Officials: Bill Pfeffer, Ray Wotkowski, Dave Reimer
JV: Tyrone, 41-28. High scorers-Blake Brooks, T, 15; Cullen Gahagan, C, 11.