Cherry provides offense for Lions
By John Hartsock
Altoona Area High School junior guard Nate Cherry works hard at the game of basketball.
“He’s a gym rat,” Altoona High School boys coach Doug West said of Cherry. “He loves the game, and he wants it to be part of his life. Early on, I had him running the point as a guard, but he’s a scorer by nature.”
Cherry showed off his scoring prowess with an exclamation point Tuesday night at the Altoona High School Fieldhouse, firing in a game-high 27 points off the bench to lead the Mountain Lions to a 75-50 victory over Kiski Area.
Cherry scored 14 points on five field goals and four free throws in the second quarter, helping Altoona dominate the period, 25-9 and bolt out to a 42-22 halftime lead.
“He’s working hard, and hopefully, this is the beginning of good things for him,” West said. “He gives us a good boost off the bench. It’s taken a few weeks for him to understand his role on the team. I think he’s starting to understand it.”
The 6-foot-1 Cherry said that the flow of Altoona’s offense in Tuesday night’s game put him in a good rhythm.
“It was just really easy for me based on how well my team worked the ball,” Cherry said. “Most of my points came off guys driving and kicking the ball out to me.
“If I wasn’t able to get a shot off, I would see one of my teammates cutting and I would get them the ball and they would be able to score,” Cherry said. “It was just a nice flowing offensive game for us. Our team was doing really well at breaking their press and getting quick buckets.”
Ahead only 19-15 early in the second quarter, Altoona (3-4) broke the game open with a 21-4 run that included 10 unanswered points.
A putback by sophomore P.J. Charles started the 10-point spurt, and Cherry followed with two free throws to help Altoona build a 23-15 lead.
Cherry hit a transition jumper before sophomore K.J. Futrell converted a breakaway layup and runner in succession to give Altoona a 29-15 advantage.
After a Nick Smith field goal broke the streak for Kiski, the Mountain Lions got a free throw from Charles, a layup from Cherry, and a field goal from senior Tyler Petucci to double up their lead to 34-17.
Junior Austin Swartz scored a field goal for Kiski, but Altoona responded with another field goal by Cherry, a putback by senior guard Max Crownover, and a jumper by Cherry to expand its lead to 40-19.
West pointed to a good bench performance from Cherry, Futrell, Charles and senior Connor Zerbee — who, along with starter Petucci, scored 10 points — as a big factor in Altoona’s success Tuesday.
“All in all, it was a good team effort,” West said. “The guys off the bench did what they’re supposed to do.”
Kiski (0-9) hung around early, but Altoona’s second-quarter surge was typical of the type of struggles that the Kiski team has endured all year, according to assistant coach Brian Misho.
Misho was filling in Tuesday for Kiski head coach Joe Tutschstone. Tutschstone, along with his wife, Kristin, recently welcomed the birth of their daughter.
“Altoona did a great job,” Misho said. “They’re well-coached, they get to the hoop, and they do a lot of good things. We’re a young team with only one senior, so we’re kind of taking our lumps a little bit.
“We played a really good first quarter, but in the second quarter, the game got away from us,” Misho added. “That has been happening this year in the second and third quarters of our games.”
Junior guard Ryne Wallace led Kiski with 14 points, while junior forward Austin Swartz added 12.
Altoona, which converted 32 of 61 floor shots, will return to action this Saturday afternoon with a game against Seneca Valley during a one-day, one-game tournament at Pittsburgh’s North Catholic High School.
“It’s always good to get a ‘W’, but we’re playing for further down the road,” West said. “We have a group of seniors who (are experienced), and some young guys who are hungry.
“I’ve been telling the guys that they have to play the game the right way between the lines,” West said. “Every time we step out on the court, we’ve got to put it out there for a full 32 minutes.”
KISKI AREA (50): Colecchi 4 1-3 9, Wallace 5 3-6 14, Greece 1 0-2 3, Swartz 4 4-11 12, Smith 2 0-0 4, Morris 1 0-0 3, Mason 2 0-1 5. Totals — 19 8-23 50.
ALTOONA (75): Crownover 2 0-0 4, Burchfield 1 0-0 3, VonColln 2 0-0 4, Petucci 4 1-2 10, Queen 2 0-0 4, Cherry 10 6-7 27, Futrell 2 0-0 4, Carter 1 0-0 2, Crockett 1 0-0 2, Barry 1 0-2 2, Charles 1 1-2 3, Robinson 0 0-0 0, Zerbee 5 0-1 10. Totals — 32 8-14 75.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Kiski Area 13 9 16 12 — 50
Altoona 17 25 13 20 — 75
3-point goals: Kiski Area 4 (Wallace, Greece, Morris, Mason); Altoona 3 (Burchfield, Cherry, Petucci).
Records: Kiski (0-9), Altoona (3-4).
Officials: Todd Parker, Mike Andrews, Tom Fontaine.
JV: Altoona, 71-24. High scorers–Sean Adamski, KA, 8; Jeremiah Crockett, A, 22.