Zimmerman transitions nicely from tourney to all-star

One week removed from his memorable shot, Richland High School’s Tyler Zimmerman hit another buzzer-beater.

With time running down in the third quarter of the boys game in the 13th annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic on Saturday at Penn State Altoona’s Adler Sports Complex, Zimmerman beat the clock by scoring on a layup to pull his Central PA team to within five points of the Blair County team.

“That was an easy one,” he said. “I’ve always (hit buzzer-beaters) ever since AAU. I guess I get lucky at the end.”

Central PA ended up losing the game, 109-104, but Zimmerman was selected as his team’s most outstanding player after scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half.

Zimmerman has been on a whirlwind this past week. His 35-foot buzzer-beating shot gave Richland an improbable 54-52 victory over Lancaster Mennonite at Chambersburg Area High School last Saturday and propelled the Rams to the Class 3A state final in Hershey.

The shot gained national recognition when it made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

“It’s been crazy,” Zimmerman said. “One minute I’m on ESPN, and the next minute I’m playing in Hershey. It’s been crazy.”

Richland fell to Neumann-Goretti in the final on Wednesday, 57-42, with Zimmerman scoring 16 points.

“There was no such thing as disappointment for us,” he said. “No (District 6 boys) team had made it that far since Johnstown (in 2005). And (Neumann-Goretti) was a good team, and we competed with them.”

With Central PA trailing by three in the final seconds of Saturday’s Mirror Classic game, Zimmerman had a chance to be a hero again but misfired on a 3-point attempt. Even if he would have buried that one, it would have paled in comparison to his shot that will be forever relived in the minds of Richland fans.

“It’s everywhere I go,” Zimmerman said. “I can’t go into a restaurant without somebody saying, ‘Good shot,’ Richland is the best community. They’ve been great with so much support.”

Cheers for the champ

Bellwood-Antis’ Tina Hollen scored four points in the Blair girls’ 64-61 victory in the first game, but no girls player received as much applause as she did.

Hollen’s rooting section cheered each time she touched the basketball.

“My team is really supportive, so I figured they’d come out to support me, and they really came out and showed me such love,” she said. “It was my teammates, like Riley D’Angelo, Emilie Leidig, Macy Decker — all of those girls — plus my coaches and family. It was nice.”

Hollen and the Lady Blue Devils won the program’s first state title on Monday by beating West Catholic of Philadelphia. B-A coach Jim Swaney was recognized for the accomplishment between games on Saturday.

“It’s been so cool,” Hollen said. “People I don’t know come up to me and congratulate me. I couldn’t have imagined the people who watched the (state championship) game and tell me stuff about it. It’s unbelievable.”

Hollen wasn’t just fortunate to end her playing career with a victory at Hershey, but she was also glad to get a win in Saturday’s all-star game.

“Most people would’ve thought we were the underdogs,” she said. “If you look at the stats, maybe we weren’t the best scorers, but we came out and played together, and I think we did really well.”

Still at it

Former Altoona Area High School basketball standout Galen Bickel was introduced between games as one of the honorary captains, along with former Tyrone star Ashley (Norris) Weigand.

If someone would have given Bickel, now 64, a uniform, he might have even played for the Blair boys.

“I still play. It’s the love of my life as far as sports go,” Bickel said. “Every day I shoot. I’m lucky to have access to a gym, and I shoot two hours, sometimes three, and work on my game.”

Bickel, retired as a Bellwood-Antis School District teacher since 2011, said he plays in leagues at The Building II Rec Hall and the Garver Memorial YMCA. In 1984, he scored 100 points in a game in the Mansion Park Summer League.

“I’ve changed my game,” he said. “When I scored 100 points in that game I was a different shooter then. I never want to stop growing. I just have a passion for the game, the drive, the search for the Holy Grail.”

Bickel coached the Bellwood boys and girls basketball teams in the late 1970s, and he said he was glad to see the girls win the state title.

“Shame on me, but I never go to the games,” he said. “I’m a home body. I don’t like to go out, and I like my privacy. I don’t like to do interviews, but when I do, I get wound up.”

Notable …

Former Mirror Classic honorary captain and Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer A.J. Nastasi was in attendance for the girls game. He is a family friend of Juniata Valley assistant coach Mike Reed and his daughter, Sydney, who were both part of the Central PA team … The games will be televised on tape delay by the Altoona Public Access Channel 14 in the near future. Rich DeLeo and Bernie Jubeck called the action … AAHS senior Natalie Holsey sang the national anthem for both games and received well-deserved much applause … Attendance for the two games combined was approximately 1,500.

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