EBENSBURG - Kobren Frederick, smiling ear to ear after a terrific all-around performance, came through at the perfect time for Huntingdon.
"This is my best game I've ever played," said the Bearcats' 6-foot-6 center, who scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds (nine offensive).
Frederick controlled the paint in Huntingdon's zone defense, and Johnstown just couldn't buy perimeter shots for most of the game. That combination helped the Bearcats to a 51-39 win in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals Wednesday night at Central Cambria High School.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Huntingdon’s Kobren Frederick goes up for a shot inside on two Johnstown Trojan defenders Wednesday night.
Huntingdon, the No. 2 seed, advanced to play top-seeded Somerset in the championship game Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Aloysius.
Frederick scored 10 of his team's 16 points in a low-scoring first half that ended with the Bearcats up just 16-15. Huntingdon (15-8) came out on fire to start the second half, though, taking control of the game with a 7-0 run over the first 2:17.
"I said the most import minutes of the second half is the first two or three minutes, and we came out and took control the first two or three minutes," Huntingdon coach Nick Payne said of his halftime speech.
Devon Claar hit a 3-pointer to start the second-half spurt, then Matt Speck scored and Nate Gearhart had a tip-in for a 23-15 edge with 5:43 left in the third. Johnstown's offense had all kinds of problems missing open shots, and the Trojans scored just six points in the third as Huntingdon built a 32-21 lead.
"We didn't play well, bottom line," Johnstown coach Neil Cobaugh said. "We didn't listen to instructions, we played with no energy and no heart."
The Trojans (12-11) have struggled shooting all year, their coach said, and even the numerous open looks they had Wednesday weren't exactly the shots Cobaugh wanted.
"To the average person, OK, they guy's open, it's a good shot," Cobaugh said. "But a good shot, we're not shooting in rhythm, we weren't shooting in the fluidity of the offense. It was just sort of like, pass the ball, OK, I'm open, I'll shoot it."
Huntingdon switched up between 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses, and with Frederick anchoring things inside, there wasn't much Johnstown could to do threaten.
The Bearcats stretched their lead to 36-24 on a bucket by Frederick midway through the fourth quarter, but Johnstown made things interesting with a 7-2 run fueled by its pressure defense that created several turnovers and easy baskets.
Huntingdon might have been in trouble had the Trojans turned more of the miscues into points, but shooting woes prevented that.
"Their perimeter shooting, they hit a couple 3s, but they pretty much stayed cool all night," Payne said.
"The best thing I saw tonight was the constant energy," said Frederick, pointing out his team's strong conditioning. "You can be tired, but you can't play tired," he added.
Gearhart was held to four points through three quarters but scored 11 in the fourth - seven at the line - to keep Huntingdon in command. AJ Fisher led Johnstown with nine points, and Claar chipped in seven for the Bearcats.
The clear difference in the game, though, was Frederick's play inside.
"Kobren Frederick, this is his third year really of playing organized basketball, and he's come a long way for us," Payne said. "I thought he did a hell of a job today. He played above the rim. I told those guys, 'Play above the rim,' and he did a wonderful job playing above the rim."
JOHNSTOWN (39): Brandon 3 0-0 7, Updyke 2 0-0 4, Price 1 0-1 2, Fisher 3 3-4 9, Reid 3 0-0 7, Robinson 2 0-0 5, Gause 2 1-1 5. Totals 16 4-6 39.
HUNTINGDON (51): Cook 1 1-1 3, Claar 3 0-0 7, M. Speck 2 0-0 4, Frederick 8 0-0 16, Gearhart 4 7-9 15, H. Speck 2 1-2 6. Totals 20 9-12 51.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Johnstown7 8 6 18 39
Huntingdon6 10 16 19 51
3-point field goals: Johnstown 2 (Brandon, Reid), Huntingdon 2 (Claar, H. Speck).
Records: Johnstown (12-11), Huntingdon (15-8).