Cherry picks Tigers apart

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Altoona coach Doug West had a good feel for when to turn his best playmaker loose against Hollidaysburg on Monday night.

With the Mountain Lions holding a four-point lead at the half, West put the ball in the hands of Nate Cherry and let him take over.

Cherry poured in 16 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter as the senior scored in a myriad of ways to lead the Lions to a 67-47 victory over the Golden Tigers.

“On Saturday or Sunday morning, I was in my car and I texted my coaches and said we’ve got to find a way to put more points on the board,” West said. “(I told them) I’m going to put the ball in Nate’s hands, and let him create for himself and let him create for his teammates.

“I think that gave him some confidence that he had the ball in his hands. … It’s what I know he can do. It’s just one of those things (where) when was the right time to put the ball in his hands and let him start creating.”

The Mountain Lions’ record improved to 4-7, while the Tigers fell to 6-6.

“When we went into the locker room, it was almost like we were up because things were working (for us),” Hollidaysburg coach Brad Lear said. “We told the kids in the second half we’ve just got to make shots — you’re going to get open looks and you’ve just got to put them in the basket. … Once they (Altoona) were making a lot of their shots and we weren’t making ours.”

The way things began in the opening half, it appeared like another neighboring-rivalry classic would play out.

The Mountain Lions made sure that notion quickly ended as they began attacking the Golden Tigers on both ends of the floor.

“We had a little team discussion yesterday and the basis of the team discussion was ‘commit to each other for 32 minutes’,” West said. “At halftime I said, ‘OK, we’ve committed for 16, we’ve got 16 more minutes to commit to each other’.”

After both teams went back-and-forth making plays and hitting tough shots in the opening half, the second half began much the same way as a layup by Hollidaysburg’s Mitch Barton cut the Altoona lead to 43-40 with 5:13 remaining in the third.

Cherry, who had already got going from the start of the half with five points, kept right on going as he kickstarted a 17-0 run with a 3-pointer in the right corner off an inbound play.

“We talked to the kids about mental lapses and communication,” Lear said. “We went over that (out of bounds play) in practice … He (Cherry) just got lost and he ends up hitting that three.”

Cherry’s attack included layups (coast-to-coast and off the dribble), 3-pointers (spot-up from deep and off a screen) and two free throws.

“We were just shooting really well and it was opening up the drive,” Cherry said. “They started putting it on me (to score) … Our team was excited from the beginning, and we came out with a bang.”

Between Cherry, P.J. Charles’ relentlessness on the boards and the Lions’ defensive effort, the Golden Tigers had no answers as they were only able to put up 13 points after the break.

Sam Servello, who carried the Tigers in the first quarter with 9 of his 14 first-half points, managed just two free throws in the second half. Meanwhile, teammate Jaden Delerme, who took over the second stanza with 13 points to keep his team close, could only make good on a jumper in the fourth.

“I thought we were playing well (in the first half). They were making some tough shots,” West said. “I thought some of their guys got away from us and got some shots up. We looked at halftime and they had two guys that had 27 of their 34 points. So, basically, just locked them down (in the second half). I thought we played a great defensive half the second half.”

The aggressiveness of the Altoona offense had the Tigers on their heels, while its defense put the clamps on the Hollidaysburg offense as shots that were falling in the opening two quarters were no longer going down.

Charles, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, capped off the third quarter spurt with a layup with 57.6 ticks left to put the Mountain Lions up 58-40.

A layup by Kurt Voncolln to open the scoring in the fourth stretched the lead to 60-40 before Luke Yeager ended the Hollidaysburg drought with two free throws at 5:04 of the final quarter.

“We gave up some rebounds inside to P.J., which he’s going to get some — he’s too athletic and too tenacious in-and-around that area,” Lear said.

The Lions’ lead would reach their largest at 21 on three different occasions before a 1-for-2 showing from the foul line by Tristan Chaney set the final.

The rematch is scheduled for Feb. 5 at the Altoona Fieldhouse.

ALTOONA (67): Futrell 2 0-1 4, Pierce 0 0-0 0, Charles 4 6-9 14, Cherry 11 6-6 31, Voncolln 2 1-2 6, Becker 2 0-0 6, Crockett 1 0-0 2, Robinson 1 0-0 2, Foose 1 0-0 2, Warren 0 0-0 0. Totals — 24 13-18 67.

HOLLIDAYSBURG (47): Batzel 0 1-2 1, Delerme 7 2-2 17, Barton 3 0-0 6, Servello 5 2-2 16, Holsopple 2 0-0 4, Stevenson 0 0-2 0, Yeager 0 2-2 2, Gildea 0 0-0 0, Chaney 0 1-2 1, Dean 0 0-0 0, McGinnis 0 0-0 0. Totals — 17 8-12 47.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Altoona 15 23 20 9 — 67

Hollidaysburg 13 21 6 7 — 47

3-point goals: Altoona 6 (Cherry 3, Becker 2, Voncolln 1); Hollidaysburg 5 (Servello 4, Delerme 1).

Records: Altoona (4-7); Hollidaysburg (6-6).

Officials: Dan Gales, Mike Conron, Nicholas Lancaster.

JV: Hollidaysburg won 51-38. High scorers–Tristan Chaney, Mitchell Kratzer, H, 10 each; Ben Warren, A, 17.

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