Bearcats top Highlands to remain perfect

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Highlands started four scrums, committed two technical fouls, had a player ejected two minutes into the game and got a warning on its bench.

Huntingdon got what it always has this season, a win.

The Bearcats kept their cool during a wild first half that seemed like it could boil over into an all-out brawl at any moment, held off a Golden Rams run in the second half, and won, 69-55, in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs Friday at Hollidaysburg.

“We all tried to tell each other to let them do it, let them get technicals,” said all-time Huntingdon leading scorer Nick Rigby. “It’s going to be a game of runs, and when you lose your composure, that’s when you start having turnovers and bad shots.”

Rigby certainly didn’t have many bad shots, though he did miss two technical free throws 2:02 into the game after the first scrum.

Highlands’ Luke Cochran was called for the first technical foul after an altercation with Huntingdon’s Owen Lane. During the pushing and shoving, Highlands’ Seth Cohen made contact with an official and was also accessed a technical foul and ejected.

Cochran stayed in the game but didn’t play much. He dealt with foul trouble throughout the contest and fouled out late in the third quarter.

“We had our chances,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “There were some plays in the game that could have gone both ways. I thought the game got out of control early, and then it was just us trying to fight back from a hole.”

Huntingdon went ahead by as many as 14 before a Korry Myers 3-pointer, one of 11 made by Highlands, cut the lead to 49-47 early in the fourth quarter.

The Bearcats responded by closing out the game on a 20-8 run, which included some stall tactics.

“We wanted to pull them out and run some time off the clock,” Huntingdon coach Nick Payne said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 10, 20 or one, you just want to get the win this time of the year.”

It’s something Huntingdon has recently added to its arsenal.

“Earlier in the season, when we had to stall the ball, we were terrible,” Payne said. “Over the last couple games, we’re doing a heck of a job just handling the ball.”

Huntingdon improved to 25-0 and will play District 10 champion Hickory on Tuesday. Hickory, which has only one loss, defeated Ambridge, 66-51, Friday.

“Huntingdon is a good team,” Stoczynski said. “They did everything right. They played hard, played together and they all know their role. That’s a good basketball team.”

Rigby finished with a game-high 34 points, but Jackson Ritchey likely had the play of the game for the Bearcats.

Johnny Crise, who scored 16 points and was in the middle of many of the scrums, had dunked several times in the game before Ritchey rose up with 3:23 left in the third quarter and slammed one home over Crise while being fouled.

Crise fell to the floor, and Ritchey started to scream, though it was hardly audible with the noise the Bearcats’ student section was making right behind him.

“We knew he was a big dunker, and I saw a lane, went up, and it just so happened he met me there,” Ritchey said. “I won that one. I definitely think that raised the energy there.”

Though Huntingdon spent some time on the court after the game enjoying Friday’s victory, the Bearcats have bigger goals in mind.

“We want to advance a lot farther,” Ritchey said. “We want that state championship, but we have to take it one game at a time and see how it goes.”

HIGHLANDS (55): Cohen 0 0-0 0, Swanger 1 0-0 3, Myers 6 0-0 17, Pesci 3 0-0 9, Cochran 2 2-2 8, Roman 0 0-0 0, Crise 8 0-3 16, McDaniel 0 0-0 0, Leri 1 0-0 2. Totals — 21 2-5 55

HUNTINGDON (69): Ritchey 6 0-1 13, Gearhart 3 4-6 12, Lane 1 1-2 3, Sulesky 0 2-4 2, Rigby 10 12-15 34, Miller 2 1-2 5, Brindle Jr. 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 20-30 69

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Highlands 12 15 15 13 — 55

Huntingdon 17 18 14 20 — 69

3-point goals: Highlands 11 (Myers 5, Pesci 3, Cochran 2, Swanger); Huntingdon 5 (Rigby 2, Gearhart 2, Ritchey)

Officials: Mike Price, Justin Fisher, Johnny Sloas

Records: Highlands (17-9); Huntingdon (25-0)

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