Reliving the scholastic year’s best moments

Mirror file photo Bishop Guilfoyle's Luke Ruggery (left) and Mike Montecalvo celebrate their victory over OLSH (Our Lady of Sacred Heart) at Kiski Area High School.

The 2018-2019 scholastic sports season has come to a close, and plenty of memories made in communities across the Mirror’s coverage area will live on forever.

Selecting just the top 10 moments was challenging, as seven PIAA state champions made the list, but none of those earned the top moment of the year.

No. 1 The tooth game

The lasting legacy of the scholastic season has to be Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic’s 62-61 victory over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the PIAA Class 2A boys basketball semifinals. Saint Francis commit and the Marauders’ all-time leading scorer, Luke Ruggery, caught an elbow from teammate Michael Montecalvo just before the half and played on with a gaping hole where his front tooth once was and blood constantly oozing from his mouth.

Ruggery didn’t miss one second of game action and still led Bishop Guilfoyle with 21 points. The image of Ruggery being mobbed by the BG student section on the court and his toothless smile after clinching a trip to the PIAA championship game is something that will live on forever.

No. 2 B-A repeats

Bellwood-Antis has made it to at least the PIAA semifinals in all three years of Notre Dame commit Alli Campbell’s varsity girls basketball career, so a 66-57 victory in this year’s Class 2A state final over West Middlesex wasn’t shocking.

But it was quite a ride to earn a second-straight title.

The Lady Blue Devils competed in a highly-regarded national tournament during the regular season and suffered a few hard-fought losses. That led to them earning the No. 4 seed in the extremely competitive District 6 Class 2A playoffs and a first-round game against Bishop McCort.

McCort held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before B-A stormed back to save its season in overtime. A couple weeks later, Bellwood survived a missed layup in the final seconds against Mount Carmel in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.

But each one of those close calls ended the same way as the state final — with Campbell and her teammates celebrating.

No. 3 JV stings D6

After knocking off Bishop Guilfoyle, 9-3, in the District 6 Class 1A semifinals, the Juniata Valley football team scored a touchdown with less than four minutes to play to take a 21-20 lead on United in the championship game. Hunter Johnson and Kyle Derugen capped off the Green Hornets’ first district title in 31 years with back-to-back interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Juniata Valley had lost to the Marauders the past two seasons in the playoffs by a combined 104 points.

The Green Hornets lost to Lackawanna Trail, 24-14, in the PIAA semifinals, but Quinn Zinobile’s effort both offensively and defensively earned the praise of everyone in the stadium. As Zinobile sat on the sideline after being knocked out of the game in the final minutes, the entire team gathered around the senior QB and paid tribute to their leader.

No. 4 Making dad proud

On the same day, Sat. Nov. 17, a pair of daughters led their respective coaches and fathers to a PIAA state championship.

In Class 2A girls soccer, Amber Thomas capped off her amazing high school career with a goal in overtime to lift Bedford to a 1-0 victory over Lewisburg in the state championship game.

The title was the first state championship in Bedford County history and completed a long journey for Amber’s father, Jeff, who previously led the Bedford boys and girls teams to the semifinals.

Just a couple hours earlier, Northern Cambria won its third PIAA girls volleyball title under Mike Hogan, but this one was likely a little more special. The Lady Colts hadn’t won a title since 2009, and Hogan’s daughter, Maggie, was the star with 31 kills in a 3-1 victory over Berlin Brothersvalley in the final.

No. 5 Maxwell dominates

Everett junior Kaitlyn Maxwell’s scholastic season ended when she was there to console her brother, Nathaniel, after he just missed a PIAA medal at the track and field championships in Shippensburg.

The emotional moment was just one in a season full of them.

Maxwell scored 41 goals, including the 100th of her career, for the Lady Warriors soccer team and capped off her year with a bronze medal in the PIAA Class 2A 400-meter dash and a fifth-place medal in the 800-meter run that was held less than an hour after she competed in the 400.

In between, she led Everett to its first-ever appearance in the PIAA girls basketball semifinals by averaging 23.8 points per game.

Maxwell was named an Altoona Mirror All-Star first teamer in all three of her sports.

No. 6 Franco returns

After spending time coaching at Altoona, Saint Joseph’s and Penn Cambria, John Franco was re-hired as the Tyrone Area High School football coach in February.

Franco left the Golden Eagles’ program in 2012 following the team’s third trip to the PIAA championship game under his watch. He had just completed a turn-around year in Cresson by nearly upsetting Forest Hills in the last week of the season to earn a trip to the District 6 playoffs just a year after Penn Cambria went 0-10.

No. 7 McGold

Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill capped off a 40-0 season by winning the 170-pound PIAA Class 2A wrestling title and then jumping into coach Greg Lazor’s arms as both fought back tears of joy.

The victory meant more after McGill lost in the semifinals a year ago.

On the same day, Brock McMillen also rebounded from a tough loss the season before to win Glendale’s first wrestling state title at 126 pounds.

No. 8 Murphy’s moment

Maddie Murphy ended every season of her high school track and field career on the triple jump medal stand in Shippensburg, but until this past May she was never in the spot she craved.

Murphy finished seventh as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and eighth as a junior.

Coming into the competition as a senior, Murphy was the top seed and pumped her fist after completing what turned out to be a gold-medal winning jump in the preliminary round.

Still, the moment that sticks out was Murphy’s back turned to her final competitors as she nervously waited out their unsuccessful attempts to out-do her distance.

No. 9 Clapper’s heave

Penn Cambria’s Makalyn Clapper was nearly tackled by teammates after her half-court heave lifted the Lady Panthers to a 51-49 victory over rival Central Cambria in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference girls basketball semifinals.

Clapper took a pass from Ryanna Hockenos after a missed free throw with just three seconds left and drilled the shot to clinch a spot in the LHAC title game.

The senior guard went on to lead Penn Cambria to the District 6 Class 3A championship and the first state playoff win in program history.

No. 10 Back on top

Led by Stella Kuntz’s ninth-place finish and Paige Wess’s 12th-place performance, Central Cambria’s cross country team won its first PIAA championship since 2014 and fifth since 2007.

Wess returned to the team for her senior year after switching to soccer as a junior.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com or 946-7521

COMMENTS