Mountain League boys teams earning respect
Anyone want to venture a guess the last time a Mountain League boys team won a District 6 basketball championship?
You have to go all the way back to 2010. That year, Penns Valley knocked off Cambria Heights for the D6-2A crown.
Since then, the Laurel Highlands Conference has dominated the scene in the middle and lower classifications. That might continue this year, but the Mountain League leaders served notice last week that they could break through to capture district gold in Class 4A this season.
Last Monday, Huntingdon, Tyrone and Central all notched notable wins against larger schools. Huntingdon beat 6A Altoona by double digits, Tyrone edged defending 5A champ Central Mountain by a point, and Central knocked off Hollidaysburg.
To make matters all the more impressive, the Bearcats and Scarlet Dragons were playing their games on the road.
Those three teams have quite a bit in common. They all are very solid all around and balanced. They can get points from a number of areas, they aren’t particularly turnover prone, and they get after it on the defensive end. And, while all three teams possess a lot of talented players, Central’s Joey Smith is probably the one guy on those three teams combined who can pretty much take over a game on his own.
The rest of this is about solid team basketball.
Huntingdon is the best bet of the three to end the Mountain drought in districts. The Bearcats have length and leaping ability in abundance, and Nick Payne’s two senior guards — Jonathan Price and Jayton Smith — are more than capable, even though both are probably just breaking 5-foot-8.
Tyrone has the ability to fill it up from outside. Central moves very well without the ball.
Those three teams not only have made each other sharper this season, they’ve gone out and played some of the better teams throughout the region. In addition to beating Altoona, Huntingdon’s won at Forest Hills. Central clocked a Chestnut Ridge team that took Hollidaysburg to overtime by around 30 points. Tyrone’s beaten Bellwood-Antis twice and handled a dangerous Penn Cambria squad over the holidays.
Johnstown beat Central in the 4A championship game last year, and the Trojans served notice they’ll still be a force with which to be reckoned come the postseason by pulling away from Tyrone at home on Saturday night. Not to make excuses for Tyrone, but that was the Golden Eagles’ fourth game in six nights, all against top competition and the last two on the road.
Aside from a hiccup against Clearfield, Huntingdon has the distinction of being the most consistent team in the class to this point in the season. The Bearcats have a good chance at their first district title in 16 years.
In most years on the area scholastic hoops scene, a 30-point game was an eye-opener. That bar’s been raised in 2017-18, though.
Hollidaysburg’s Ethan Haupt netted 28 points in the Golden Tigers’ overtime win over Chestnut Ridge on Thursday. He wasn’t even within single digits of being high scorer that night — Ridge’s Noah Dillow poured in 40.
A couple of weeks ago, Tyrone’s Dylan Thomas made a Golden Eagles record 12 3-pointers as he fired in 40 in a win against Bellefonte. That wasn’t even the most points a Tyrone player scored this season, as Sydney Shaw poured in 41 in a victory over Philipsburg-Osceola.
The top performance in the Mirror coverage area this season belongs to Bellwood-Antis’ Trent Walker. He erupted for 46 in December vs. Williamsburg.
The best scoring game for an area girl belongs to P-O’s Halle Herrington, who netted 45 in a 65-62 loss to Juniata; those teams play again this week.
Mammoth point totals haven’t just been limited to the Mirror coverage area, either. Just on the fringe of the Mirror area, West Branch’s Larry Cowder went off for 41 against Glendale in December.
Turkeyfoot Valley’s Craig Lytle is the author of the highest scoring night in District 5 and District 6 this winter. He accounted for 54 points in a win against North Star, taking 47 shots, making 10 3-pointers and not going to the foul line once.
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.