Solid middle helps Lions finish McCort
By John Hartsock
In basketball, there are runs – scoring streaks by one team – that set the tone for a game or change the momentum.
Then there are other runs that totally put the game away.
The Altoona Mountain Lions enjoyed the latter type of run Thursday evening, ripping off 17 consecutive points in a span covering the second and third quarters, en route to a 60-35 victory over Bishop McCort at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
It was the last home game of the season for Altoona and its seniors Jermaine Samuel, Danny Kirwin, Isaiah Wansley and Desmond Gampe. And, thanks to the big mid-game scoring outburst, they went out before the home crowd in style.
Altoona (7-12) has road games at Huntingdon and Central Mountain left on its regular-season schedule, and a berth in the upcoming District 6-AAAA playoffs, but the Mountain Lions guaranteed their swan song at the Fieldhouse would go off without a hitch by putting together the marvelous six-minute span in the second and third periods.
“I thought we played a really good second half,” said Altoona coach Paul Hasson, whose Mountain Lions led only 25-22 at the break but carried the second half, 35-13. “We were kind of lethargic in the first half, but (the coaches) challenged the players at halftime, and the players responded. We picked up our intensity in the second half.”
McCort (9-12) went ahead, 22-21 late in the second quarter when junior J.T. Durica scored a field goal, was fouled, and completed a 3-point play with a free throw.
Then came the Mountain Lions’ blitzkrieg.
Altoona started its surge when junior Jacob Port muscled inside for a field goal and Kirwin scored a putback from the key off his own missed shot to give Altoona the 25-22 halftime edge.
The Mountain Lions put the game on ice by scoring the first 13 points of the third quarter. Samuel started the uprising with a 3-point field goal from the right side, Kirwin hit two free throws, and Port’s bucket made it a 10-point (32-22) game.
Wansley, who scored a game-high 19 points and also grabbed eight rebounds, converted a Kirwin pass down low, before Port scored a transition layup and junior Bobby Corl hit two free throws to complete the 17-point streak and give Altoona a 38-22 lead with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
“We had been playing really sloppy, then we went on that 17-0 run,” Hasson said.
Kirwin and Port scored 11 points apiece for Altoona, and freshman forward Jayvion Queen made a nice contribution off the bench, scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds as Altoona fashioned a 28-11 overall edge on the boards.
“Jayvion Queen is a 6-foot-5 ninth grader who did some good things for us tonight,” Hasson said.
So did Wansley, a 6-foot-3 bruiser who made his presence known with 13 second-half points.
“We had no answer for number 25 (Wansley),” McCort coach Jerry Murphy said. “He did whatever he wanted to do.”
Murphy said that his team has had difficulty competing against big, physical teams this year, and Altoona – with the 6-3 Wansley, 6-5 Queen and 6-7 Samuel on its front line – definitely fits that description.
“They muscled us up pretty good today,” Murphy said.
Wansley said that the Mountain Lions were able to kick it into a higher gear in the second half.
“We realized that we needed to pick it up,” he said. “We were hustling more, our defense got a lot better, and our offense was able to break their press.”
McCort made only 15 of 41 floor shots, including just 5 of 23 in the second half. Altoona converted 26 of 48 in the game, with many of the Mountain Lions’ second-half shots being high-percentage layups out of transition or buckets from the paint.
“When we knock some shots down, we’re OK,” Murphy said. “But their defense packed it in on us, and we didn’t make shots today.”
Junior Alex Conahan’s 12 points led McCort, which was outscored by the Mountain Lions, 16-6 in the fourth quarter.
“We’re trying to play with more consistency,” Hasson said. “I’m really proud of how we played in the second half.”
BISHOP MCCORT (35): Conahan 6 0-0 12, Deter 1 0-0 2, Eckenrod 2 0-0 4, Stem 2 4-6 8, Helsel 1 0-1 2, B. Wade 0 0-0 0, Casper 0 0-0 0, Vitovich 0 0-0 0, L. Wade 1 0-0 2, Durica 2 1-1 5, Wilson 0 0-0 0. Totals – 15 5-8 35.
ALTOONA (60): Wansley 9 1-1 19, Samuel 3 0-0 7, Kirwin 4 2-2 11, J. Port 5 1-1 11, C. Gehret 0 0-0 0, Corl 2 2-4 6, Luciano 0 0-0 0, Gampe 0 0-0 0, Queen 3 0-0 6, Green 0 0-0 0, T. Gehret 0 0-0 0, J. Port 0 0-0 0. Totals – 26 6-8 60.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop McCort10 12 7 6 – 35
Altoona11 14 19 16 – 60
3-point goals: Altoona 2 (Samuel, Kirwin).
Records: Bishop McCort (9-11); Altoona (7-12).
Officials: Gary Zimmerman, Clark Adelman, Dave Baronner.