Tigers fight off Lions
HOLLIDAYSBURG — When Golden Tigers coach Brad Lear says Hollidaysburg is a healthy program, he certainly isn’t speaking literally.
The litany of injuries that have swept over the Tigers this winter have been so numerous, Hollidaysburg trainer Amy Smearman could keep a team of interns busy.
“It’s been probably the worst year for injuries in my coaching history,” Lear said.
The flip side of probably not being able to use the same lineup twice in 2018 is that Lear has had to turn to a lot of different players for key contributions just out of necessity.
That worked to Hollidaysburg’s benefit on Friday night. The Tigers needed contributions from throughout the lineup and got them, building up a double-digit second-half lead and holding off Altoona to avenge an earlier defeat, 70-67, in high school boys basketball.
The Tiger bench combined for 34 points to support’s Ethan Haupt’s game-high 27-point effort. Collin Stevenson and Casey Ottaway scored 12 points apiece, and usual starter Dominic Frucella, coming off the bench while nursing a hurt shoulder, netted nine before fouling out.
“It’s a luxury to have that when you can’t get solid play from one guy, you can put another guy in there, and he can give you something,” Lear said after the Tigers improved to 10-6. “Like I tell the kids, we might not have the best five, but we have the best 10, or the best 12.”
That was required to overcome 6-foot-7 Altoona pivot Javion Queen’s 19-point, 12-rebound effort and Nate Cherry’s 10-point fourth quarter. Altoona had a chance to force overtime, but Kurt VonColln’s contested desperation double-clutch 3 at the buzzer fell short.
“I thought we were going to let it get away from us,” Lear said.
Altoona dipped to 5-11.
“The size only works for you if you make some outside shots, and we struggled early,” said Altoona coach Doug West, whose Mountain Lions made four of their six treys in the last 2:15 after Hollidaysburg surged ahead by as many as 11 points. “They started packing it in, packing it in, and Jayvion was getting it with three guys around him.
“We’ve just got to do a better job. We’ve been giving up a lot of points lately.”
Hollidaysburg didn’t trail after Stevenson drove hard to the basket for a bucket that looked like it might have been a charge with 2:53 left in the first half. The Tigers scored 21 points in the second quarter to secure a six-point lead at the intermission, then put up 25 in the final period, when Haupt scored 14.
“Every time they would go on a little run, Collin Stevenson would gather us up and try to calm us down, and he was telling me ‘be the best that you are,’ and I kept driving to the hoop,” Haupt said. “It gave me the confidence to keep going. I tried driving a lot more, and, if Jayvion or (Tyler) Petucci stepped up, I would hit Casey for that baseline jumper, which really helped.”
Haupt also had five assists on a night when both teams pulled out all the stops– at one point Altoona fouled Michael Day, but Haupt savvily stepped to the line instead and hit both shots, much to the dismay of West, who realized the mistake after the Tiger win had made the first shot.
“It meant the world to us to win,” Haupt said.
Haupt missed the Tigers’ 49-39 loss at Altoona on Jan. 12, a contest in which Frucella also played sparingly. This time around, Frucella was able to help banging inside against Queen, and he scored all of his points in the second half, making a corner 3 in the third quarter that brought the Tiger crowd to their feet and coming up with back-to-back buckets on a put-back and a loose-ball layup around the 2-minute mark to give Hollidaysburg a 10-point advantage, 62-52.
Stevenson made a pair of 3s and had nine points by halftime coming off the bench. Ottaway scored six in the second quarter in a reserve role and had eight at halftime.
Ottaway was at the center of controversy in the first meeting when the Altoona student section burst into a late-game chant mentioning his late mother. The 6-4 Tiger senior appeared fired up for the return meeting, pumping his fist after a second-quarter play, but he said that had more to do with elevating his usual emotion for the rivalry with the Lions.
“I’m like that every game, and especially now. I’m a senior. I’ve played Altoona seven times not including junior high,” Ottaway said. “Playing with my brothers for the next to last time on our home floor, we weren’t going to go out with a loss to Altoona.”
The Lions led most of the first quarter when VonColln scored five of his 10 points while hounding Haupt defensively.
“The guys are disappointed,” West said. “A call here, a call here, a bounce here, a bounce there, things might have been different.”
Meanwhile, as Hollidaysburg begins recovering from its injuries, things might be different for the Tigers as the playoffs approach.
“When we were out, that gave others guys opportunities,” Haupt said. “Tonight, that helped them.”
Game notes: Despite being outsized inside, Hollidaysburg outrebounded Altoona, 33-25. … The Lions return to action on Monday at State College. Hollidaysburg plays at Mifflin County that night. … Altoona rolled to a 57-38 win in the junior varsity contest, getting 15 points from P.J. Charles and 11 from Tyler Becker.
ALTOONA (67): Burchfield 1 0-0 2, Crownover 3 2-2 9, VonColln 3 3-4 10, Petucci 3 0-0 7, Queen 4 11-15 19, Cherry 4 2-2 13, Charles 3 0-2 6, Berry 0 1-2 1. Totals — 21 19-27 67.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (70): Viduya 0 0-0 0, Delerme 1 0-0 2, Haupt 8 10-11 27, Day 0 1-2 1, Marks 3 0-0 6, C. Stevenson 4 2-3 12, Frucella 4 0-0 9, Ottaway 5 2-5 12, Holsopple 0 1-2 1. Totals — 25 16-23 70.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 12 16 13 26 — 67
Hollidaysburg 13 21 11 25 — 70
3-point goals: Altoona 6 (VonColln, Cherry 3, Crownover, Petucci); Hollidaysburg 4 (Stevenson 2, Haupt, Frucella).
Records: Altoona (5-11); Hollidaysburg (10-6).
Officlals: Sam Zambanini, Mike Baum, Justin Fisher.
JV: Altoona, 57-38. High scorers–P.J. Charles, A, 15; Mitch Barton, H, 13.