Highlanders rebound, rally for LHAC victory

PATTON – Sometimes the best thing that can happen after a bad loss is to get right back on the court the very next night.

After losing by 47 points to Bishop Carroll Wednesday, the Cambria Heights boys basketball team took the floor again Thursday and squeezed out a 47-46 win over Penn Cambria.

“These kids battle every day at practice. They really go after each other,” coach Eric Nagel said. “Coming off [Wednesday], they showed a lot of resilience. They could have very easily just packed it in.”

Trailing 39-33 at the start of the fourth quarter, Penn Cambria outscored the Highlanders 9-1 for a 42-40 lead with 3 minutes left to play.

After Chad Tsikalas’ 3-point play, Andrew George made a pair of free throws and Robert Bastian scored on a lay in to tie the game 40-40. Tsikalas then gave the Panthers their first lead of the game. The senior swingman drove to the basket and scored over a double team.

The lead was short-lived. Zach Strasser drained a 3-pointer on Heights’ next possession. Nick Milanesi and Eric Ford both followed with a pair of free throws, extending the Highlanders lead to five with 1:36 remaining.

“That was a clutch 3 by Zach. He hits that and gets us the lead right back,” Nagel said.

A Tsikalas layup followed by Drew Slatko’s jump shot from the elbow made it a one-point game with 45 seconds on the clock. With time running out, Michael Kost made a steal that gave Penn Cambria one last chance with 8 seconds to go, but Tsikalas’ shot didn’t fall and Milanesi grabbed the rebound as the clock ran out.

“We didn’t hit any shots. We had a lot of great looks. We must have been in the 20 percent range shooting,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “We played so hard but let it slip away on the offensive end.”

The Panthers shot 17-of-58 from the field for 29 percent. Penn Cambria also failed to take advantage of 24 turnovers, many of which came from its 2-2-1 full court zone press. Typically, turnovers created by a full court lead to easy buckets, but not for Penn Cambria Thursday.

“We didn’t get those. It was very odd,” Ronan said. “That’s been our season. They work hard in practice. They buy in to what we’re coaching them. We just can’t put together an entire game.”

With the win, Cambria Heights improves to 7-11, 2-5 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Section 1. Penn Cambria is now 5-12, 1-5 in LHAC Section 1 play.

Josh Serafin scored a team-high 10 points for the Highlanders. A.J. Huber had nine points as did Eric Ford. Ford was 7-of-8 from the foul line. The junior forward also grabbed nine rebounds to just miss a double-double.

“Eric played a strong, physical game inside for us and did a good job making his free throws,” Nagel said. “Early on we missed the front end of a 1-and-1 a couples times and pushed away good opportunities to score.”

Leading 12-8 at the end of the first quarter, Cambria Heights put together a 10-3 spurt to double up Penn Cambria at the time, 22-11.

Ford made a pair of free throws, Serafin hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Huber tipped in a Christian Bills miss. Milanesi’s 3 gave the Highlanders a double-digit lead.

Penn Cambria answered with a 14-3 run to tie the game, 25-25. Slatko sank a 3-pointer, scored on a putback of a Zach Chirdon miss and added a layup. Tsikalas had a 3-pointer as well.

Cambria Heights scored the last four points of the quarter for a 29-25 halftime lead. Shawn Lacue made a layup. Ford and Nathan Patrick each converted 1-of-2 free throws.

PENN CAMBRIA (46): Mardula 2 2-2 7, Janosik 0 0-0 0, Chirdon 0 2-2 2, Tsikalas 7 2-3 17, Bastian 2 0-1 5, George 1 2-2 4, Kost 1 0-0 2, Slatko 4 0-0 9, Gould 0 0-0 0, Terek 0 0-0 0. Totals – 17 8-10 46.

CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (47): Patrick 0 1-3 1, Serafin 3 2-4 10, Bills 1 0-0 2, Strasser 2 1-2 7, Huber 4 1-1 9, Milanesi 1 2-3 5, Lacue 2 0-0 4, Ford 1 7-8 9, Kline 0 0-1 0. Totals – 14 14-22 47.


Penn Cambria8 17 8 13 – 46

Cambria Heights12 17 10 8 – 47

3-point goals: Penn Cambria 4 (Mardula, Tsikalas, Bastian, Slatko); Cambria Heights 5 (Serafin 2, Strasser 2, Milanesi).

Records: Penn Cambria (5-12, 1-5 LHAC Section 1); Cambria Heights (7-11, 2-5 LHAC Section 1).

JV: Penn Cambria, 37-35. High scorers-Gould, PC, 8; Kline, CH, 10.