Mtn. Lions continue late-season surge

HUNTINGDON – This season hasn’t gone as planned for coach Paul Hasson and the Altoona Mountain Lions, but the team is starting to hit its stride at the right time and that could spell trouble for the rest of District 6 Class AAAA.

Altoona went on the road Friday night to defeat Huntingdon, 71-55, and won its fourth consecutive game.

“Good team effort tonight against a good team,” Hasson said. “We’ve won four straight now, and it feels like we are starting to gel at the right time.”

The game looked like it would be tightly contested throughout as the teams traded jabs through much of the first half.

Huntingdon top scorer Nate Gearhart started strong, scoring six points in the first quarter as the teams played to a 16-16 tie.

The second quarter started much the same as the teams exchanged leads five times in the first three minutes. Jermaine Samuel connected on two 3-pointers early in the second to give Altoona a slight edge, but Huntingdon big man Kobren Frederick answered with five straight points and the score was knotted at 25 apiece at the five-minute mark.

The game changed for good with 3:31 left in the quarter as Frederick picked up his third foul and had to sit the rest of the half.

Altoona outscored the Bearcats 13-5 after that point with reserve guard Bobby Corl scoring seven points to cap a 10-0 run to end the half and give Altoona a 38-32 lead.

“We were right in the game until Kobren got into foul trouble. They went on a big run to end the half, and the game changed. That sequence played a big role in the outcome,” Huntingdon coach Nick Payne said.

The third quarter saw both teams struggle offensively, combining for just 19 points. But for Huntingdon, Frederick picked up a fourth foul at the 5:34 mark and was forced to sit the rest of the quarter.

The third quarter also saw Samuel begin to assert himself on defense as he locked down Gearhart, one of the area’s top scorers. Samuel frustrated Gearhart with his length all night but was especially strong in limiting him to two third-quarter points.

For the game, Gearhart finished with 13 points and shot below 30 percent from the field.

“The guys really played well defensively, especially against Frederick and Gearhart,” Hasson said. “Those are two good scorers, and we held both under 20 points which is a great accomplishment.”

The fourth quarter belonged to Altoona as the Lions pulled away early and never looked back. It was Corl again leading the way as the junior guard scored nine points in the final quarter, including seven straight to stretch the Mountain Lions’ lead to double digits with a little more than three minutes left.

Corl led Altoona with 19 points, while Isaiah Wansley added 18 and Samuel 14.

“Bobby is probably our top scorer on the year, and he enjoys coming off the bench,” Hassson said. “He gets a chance to see the flow of the game and then come in with a spark.”

“I really like my role coming off the bench,” Corl said. “The last five games I’ve found my scoring touch, and I hope both myself and the team can keep the momentum going into the playoffs.”

Despite limited minutes, Frederick led the Bearcats with 16 points. Huntingdon will now get ready for the playoffs as its regular season is finished.

“People wonder why we schedule these tough games with Altoona, a traditional big school power. Well, it’s to get ready for this time of year, for the postseason, and hopefully tonight’s game will help us,” Payne said.

Altoona will finish the regular season at Central Mountain before beginning its playoff run.

“We are playing our best ball right now, and hopefully we can pick up one more win and make a run in the playoffs,” Hasson said.

ALTOONA (71): Samuel 5 1-4 14, Kirwin 2 0-0 5, Gehret 0 0-0 0, Wansley 7 4-5 18, Port 4 2-4 10, Gampe 0 0-0 0, Corl 7 4-6 19, Queen 2 1-8 5, Luciano 0 0-0 0 -Totals 22 12-27 71

HUNTINGDON (55): Frederick 7 2-5 16, Mitchell 3 2-2 11, H. Speck 3 1-2 7, M. Speck 2 1-2 6, Gearhart 4 3-6 13, Sulesky 1 0-0 2, King 0 0-0 0, Montgomery 0 0-0 0 – Totals 20 9-17 55

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Altoona16 22 10 23 71

Huntingdon16 16 9 14 55

3-point goals: Altoona (Samuel 3, Corl, Kirwin), Huntingdon (Mitchell 3, Gearhart 2, H. Speck 1)

Records: Altoona (8-12), Huntingdon (13-9).

JV: Altoona, 47-39. High scorers-Weaver, A, 10; Kyper, H, 13.