Eberhart, Brown come from small schools, but add to the Blair boys’ overall size

For six years, Luke Eberhart has been trying to outplay Peyton Brown.

“I know every time we were going up against each other, it was going to be a battle,” Eberhart said.

Eberhart’s and Brown’s games are very similar. Both are forwards, Eberhart going 6-foot-3 and Brown 6-6. However, both are just as comfortable 15-22 feet away from the basket as they are on the low block. So, it made for an interesting matchup whenever Brown and Williamsburg faced Eberhart and Claysburg-Kimmel.

Tonight, though, the longtime rivals will be working for a common cause. Coming from the two smallest schools represented on the Blair County team, Brown and Eberhart will try to make an impact that’s big in a number of respects as their senior all-star team faces one made up of players from all over District 6 and District 5 in the 11th annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic.

Tipoff for the boys game, which will be preceded by a contest featuring the region’s top girls players, is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. at Mount Aloysius College’s Athletic Convocation and Wellness Center. Proceeds benefit the Big John Riley Scholarship Fund.

The Blair County boys only have won two of the previous 10 encounters with their Central PA counterparts. Many of those games have ended up one-sided, as the Blair team, which only can draw from 10 schools, two of which aren’t part of the PIAA, have found themselves routinely facing a tremendous height disadvantage.

While this year’s Central PA team still has the tallest players, like Penns Valley’s 6-7 Zach Engle, Homer-Center’s 6-6 Ben Wolford and Chestnut Ridge’s 6-6 Jay Grubb, Blair County will have good size of its own with which to counter – Altoona’s Jacob Port, Hollidaysburg’s Jacob Holsopple, Bellwood-Antis’ Nathan Davis and Jake Burch and Tyrone’s Anthony Politza all stand at least 6-3.

And, of course, that doesn’t even include Brown and Eberhart, which should help Blair measure up even better.

“From the small sample size that we’ve had, both seem like outstanding players and really good kids,” said Hollidaysburg Area coach Brad Lear, who is guiding the Blair stars tonight. “With Peyton and Jake (Burch) and Anthony and Jake Port and Jake Holsopple’s size and Luke’s flexibility, we have some solid posts.”

Brown and Eberhart aren’t just tall. They got it done on the court, too – both averaged double-doubles as seniors.

Brown averaged 16.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 2.5 steals and 2.1 assists. He also canned 35 3 -pointers.

“He can really shoot the basketball,” Lear said.

Brown stands out in a crowd, looking actually taller than his listed height. That caught the attention of Penn State Altoona coach Doug West at Blair County’s Monday practice; unfortunately for West, Brown’s already paid his deposit to Penn State Behrend.

After dominating against smaller-school competition, Brown is looking forward to seeing what he can do against the best of the best.

“It’s going to be tough, considering we’re playing against most of Pennsylvania, but we have some good kids, so I think we should be OK,” Brown said. “You prove what you have when you are playing against (bigger competition).”

Eberhart also is eager to test himself. He recorded 17.0 points and 12.0 rebounds as a senior in keying his Bulldogs to a better-than-expected showing that culminated in a District 6 Class A playoff appearance.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited to play with a lot of the guys from the bigger schools. Us versus Central PA, we’re going to have a lot of competition there,” Eberhart said. “I’m just hoping to do as much as I can. I know I’m a good enough shooter and post player to play with a lot of the guys. I’m just hoping to showcase that.”

Lear said Eberhart already had added something to the Blair team at the beginning of the first practice. When Lear asked Eberhart what position he could play, Eberhart’s fun-loving personality came out.

“He said, ‘one through five,’ so he has my mentality,” Lear recounted with a laugh. “He’s got some character, a really nice personality.”

Brown, meanwhile, comes off as a little more serious and cerebral. He rarely faced many players who could see over him when he suited up for Williamsburg, but he realized that wouldn’t be the case tonight, so he analyzed how he still could contributed to what he hoped would be a Blair County win.

“This is more of an opportunity to show my versatility, because most of their (Central PA’s) big players are strictly posts,” Brown said. “I’ll take them outside and try to work them a bit.”

Eberhart has the potential to do the same and create some match-up problems for Central PA. Eberhart isn’t just at home shooting the ball outside, he handles the ball well away from the basket.

That’s the result of years of playing and practice.

“My gram has a hoop at her place I used to play at, then, in sixth grade, I started playing organizationally. I thought it was a lot of fun. I always played a lot out of school,” Eberhart said.

Eberhart might continue to play at a college like Juniata, but he’s happy to be completing his scholastic career on the court with his longtime rival, Brown.

“I’m happy that I finally get to be on his team,” Eberhart said, “so I don’t have to match up with him.”