Tigers close with big 4th quarter

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Hollidaysburg Area High School boys basketball team secured the type of morale-boosting, mid-January victory on Friday night that can help the Golden Tigers build some emotional muscle for the playoff season that begins in late February.

Hollidaysburg bounced back from two tough home-court losses and ruled the fourth quarter Friday en route to a hard-fought 59-49 win over Punxsutawney at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School gymnasium.

The Golden Tigers (8-5) led only 38-37 after three quarters, but gained separation by carrying the fourth period, 21-12.

Senior guard Austin Finochio scored seven of his team-high 17 points in the fourth period, when junior forward Dominic Frucella chipped in six of his 16 points for the Golden Tigers, who parlayed high-percentage chances into seven successful field goals in their 10 tries over the final eight minutes.

“We didn’t do a good job of responding to their defensive pressure in the first half, but we made some adjustments in the third quarter,” Hollidaysburg coach Brad Lear said. “(Finochio) is our leader. A lot of nights, we come and go the way he does. And I thought Frucella, who had 11 rebounds, played a very good post game.”

After the game went back-and-forth for the first three quarters, Hollidaysburg took the lead for good when Finochio benefited from a sweet roll off the rim to put the Tigers ahead, 44-42 midway through the fourth.

“I was just trying to do whatever I could to help the team win,” Finochio said. “This is a good confidence boost against a good team.”

Then senior J.J. Collins came off the bench to give the Tigers a huge spark, hitting a breakaway layup, drawing a foul, and converting the free throw to complete the 3-point play to give Hollidaysburg a 47-42 edge with 3:44 left.

After Punxsy senior Jake Horner hit a free throw, Finochio followed with a field goal from the right side, and sophomore guard Sam Servello converted two free throws, to give Hollidaysburg an 8-point (51-43) advantage with 2:03 showing.

“In the fourth quarter, it’s all about free-throw shooting and rebounding,” said Servello, who scored 11 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game. “Ball security was the key. We didn’t turn the ball over tonight.”

Punxsutawney, which has now lost four straight after opening the season with a 7-0 record, made only four of its 14 fourth-quarter floor shots and was just 7-of -9 from the foul line in the game.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Punxsutawney coach Dirk Neal said. “We missed a lot of easy baskets, and our foul shooting was horrendous. We missed a lot of shots near the hoop that rolled off the rim.

“Give credit to Hollidaysburg — they got to the basket well and finished,” Neal said. “They were hitting high-percentage shots, and we weren’t getting good looks. As a team, we’ve got to get tougher.”

Junior forward Brandon Mathews had a game-high 20 points for Punxsutawney, which also got 12 off the bench from sophomore Ethan Blose.

Punxsutawney rode three 3-point field goals to a 17-12 lead after one quarter, and held serve at halftime, leading, 26-25.

Hollidaysburg led, 38-37 after three quarters, with Servello’s two free throws to end the third quarter constituting the difference.

After dropping tough decisions to Altoona (44-37) and Williamsport (49-44) in their previous two home-court outings, the Tigers were on a mission Friday night, particularly with five straight road games up next, including Monday’s visit to Central Cambria.

“I think we were just tired of losing close games,” Finochio said. “We wanted to grind one out here tonight before we go on a road stretch for five games in a row.”

PUNXSUTAWNEY (49): Riley 1 0-0 2, Weaver 2 1-2 7, Horner 1 1-5 3, Kelly 2 1-4 5, Mathews 7 4-8 20, Richardson 0 0-0 0, Fedigan 0 0-0 0, Blose 5 0-0 12. Totals — 18 7-19 49.

HOLLIDAYSBURG (59): Finochio 7 3-6 17, Haupt 1 1-2 3, Frucella 7 2-2 16, Servello 2 6-6 11, Pugh 3 0-1 6, Collins 1 1-2 3, Viduya 0 1-2 1, Storm 1 0-0 2, Day 0 0-2 0. Totals — 22 14-23 59.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Punxsutawney    17 9 11 12 — 49

Hollidaysburg    12 13 13 21 — 59

3-point goals: Punxsutawney 6 (Weaver 2, Mathews 2, Blose 2); Hollidaysburg 1 (Servello).

Records: Punxsutawney (7-4); Hollidaysburg (8-5).

JV: Hollidaysburg, 66-40. High scorers–Colin Stevenson, H.

Officials: Greg Sipos, Keith Frye, Wes Sinclair.

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