The Altoona Mountain Lions were all smiles following Monday's game against Central Mountain.
Altoona celebrated senior night with a 65-58 victory over the Wildcats at the AAHS Fieldhouse. After a 1-6 start, the team has won eight of its last 10 to move over the .500 mark for the first time this season at 9-8. The win was also number 200 for coach Paul Hasson.
Senior Manny Span led Altoona with a double-double. The 6-foot-5 power forward dominated the paint with 29 points and 16 rebounds.
"Last year we started 4-1 then fell apart. This year it's the opposite," Span said. "We've battled through everything. Coach is always talking about peaking at the right time. We're starting to gain a little momentum."
Altoona got off to fast start and maintained a double-digit lead throughout most of the game. Span scored three baskets down low and a trio of Mountain Lions knocked down 3-pointers in the first quarter.
David Simmons and Tony Acrie hit back-to-back treys early on, and Jermaine Samuel's 3-pointer late in the opening quarter put Altoona up 22-10.
Acrie, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, scored five more points in the quarter on a pair of layups and a free throw. The senior forward had two assists as well, setting up Span for two of his layups.
"We've been getting off to great starts and been able to sustain it," Hasson said. "I'd much rather have that than fighting from behind all the time."
The team's success has coincided with improved guard play, Hasson said.
"Our big men started last year, but our guards were young," he said. "We knew they would get better because they have the ability. We played a brutal schedule early on and struggled, but they got better from it."
David Simmons brought the crowd to its feet twice in the fourth quarter with a pair of steals that led to buckets on the other end.
The senior guard first made a quick behind the back pass to a streaking Jaret Berardinelli for two points. Later in the quarter, Simmons launched a high arcing pass for Samuel to put in an alley-oop layup.
Altoona took a 35-21 lead to halftime and extended the lead by two on a Samuel turnaround jumper to open the second half.
The Mountain Lions offense cooled off after that. Central Mountain went on an 8-1 run to pull within single digits, 38-29.
Span got Altoona back on track with four straight buckets down low to put the Mountain Lions back up by 15.
"We held him to eight points at our place so we knew they definitely wanted go inside," Central Mountain coach Scott Baker said. "He was a man [Monday]."
Central Mountain's Tyler Everhart sank six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 30 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.
"He was tough in the fourth quarter. He's a pure shooter, and he got hot," Hasson said. "It was a heck of performance. He kept them in it."
The margin of victory could have been greater, but Altoona shot poorly from the foul line, converting just 10-of-27 free throws. Span was just 5-of-13 from the line.
"Our foul shooting was dismal," Hasson said. "We struggled from the line early but had been coming out of it recently. We went backwards [Monday]."
Along with Span, Simmons, Berardinelli, Acrie and student-body favorite Matt Eiman played their final game at the fieldhouse.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (58): Everhart 12 0-1 30, Turchetta 1 0-1 2, Jolly 6 0-0 12, Garbrick 1 4-8 7, Meeker 1 0-0 3, Moore 0 0-0 0, Klein 2 0-0 4, Peddigree 0 0-0 0, Stevenson 0 0-0 0. Totals - 23 4-10 58.
ALTOONA (65): Simmons 2 2-5 8, Berardinelli 1 2-4 4, Eiman 0 0-0 0, Acrie 6 1-1 15, Span 12 5-13 29, Samuel 3 0-0 7, Kirwin 0 0-2 0, Port 1 0-0 2. Totals - 25 10-27 65.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Mountain10 11 13 24 - 58
Altoona22 13 12 18 - 65
3-point goals: Central Mountain 8 (Everhart 6, Garbrick, Meeker); Altoona 5 (Simmons 2, Acrie 2, Samuel).
Records: Central Mountain (6-13); Altoona (9-8).
JV: Altoona, 53-46. High scorers-Baker, Bumbarger, CM, 10; Port, A, 20.