WINGATE - The Hollidaysburg boys basketball team's hopes of more second-season success depended on the plan against State College.
After a first-round win over Mifflin County, the Tigers came into the Bald Eagle Area gym on Saturday afternoon looking for another playoff win against the No. 1 seeded Little Lions in their District 6 Class AAAA semifinal matchup.
Not wanting to run with State College, Hollidaysburg planned to keep the pace slow, hold the score down, stay close, and then go for it down the stretch.
It worked - especially in the first half and deep into the third quarter.
But the Little Lions' depth, pressure defense and shooting ability began to exert themselves after that, and State College steadily pulled away for a 55-29 victory and a spot in Wednesday night's district final against Central Mountain at St. Francis University.
Senior guard Kyle Kanaskie scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half - including four 3s - as the Little Lions scored nine of the last 11 points in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter to turn a relatively slim lead into a 20-point bulge, 43-23, going into the fourth quarter.
"They got away from us," Hollidaysburg coach Mick Pentoney said. "They made some adjustments and started getting inside a little better, and we couldn't adjust quick enough.
"And the other thing is that they shoot the ball so well. They are one of the best high-school shooting teams that you are going to run into."
The game began with Hollidaysburg essentially dictating the pace of play. The deliberate offense against the SC man-to-man defense kept the Tigers within striking distance -six points - after the first quarter and within 11 points, 23-12, at halftime.
Led by Zach Ottaway's eight first-half points, and 15 for the night, the Tigers were able to keep the game a half-court affair and stay within a run of tying or even going ahead.
"That's what we anticipated," State College coach Drew Frank said. "Actually, with the defense we were playing, we were hoping the game would go that way. We wanted to keep them from penetrating, keep them outside the circle and outside of the paint. The longer the game went on, I thought the more pressure there was on their offense."
With things still close into the third quarter, and after a long 3 by Ottaway, the Tigers were still hanging in, down 34-23 going into the final minute of the third quarter.
But baskets by Connor Nodell and Ryan Karstetter, along with a foul shot and a 3 by Kanaskie, bumped the SC lead up to 43-23, and from there the Little Lions turned to their defense to close things out. SC allowed the Tigers to score only six points in the last quarter.
"We were hoping that we could catch lightning in a bottle and hit some 3s," Pentoney said. "There was a chance. We always believe we can win; it's our mentality at Hollidaysburg."
Ottaway finished with 15 points for the Tigers, Colton Ruggery had four, and Brian Urban, Nick Consiglio and Dom Viduya each had three. Kanaskie had 21 for State College, and he was followed by Ryan Sekunda with nine, Jason Costa with seven and Nodell with seven.
"I am just really happy with these kids," Pentoney said. "What a great team. When you have a bad year, and we had zero complaints. This would be a model team for any coach.
"We came out every night and we thought we had a chance to win, and that is a credit to our captains. I told the guys that we weren't able to catch lightning in a bottle twice, but we were 1-1 in the playoffs. That's not too bad."
HOLLIDAYSBURG (29): Miller 0 0-0 0, Urban 1 1-2 3, Mason 0 0-0 0, Ruggery 2 0-04, Consiglio 1 0-0 3, Viduya 1 0-0 3, Ottaway 6 1-1 15, Holsopple 0 0-1 0, Adams 0 1-2 0. Totals 11 3-6 29
STATE COLLEGE (55): Engle 0 0-0 0, Nodell 3 0-0 7, Shadle 0 0-0 0, Kanaskie 6 4-4 21, Cooper 0 2-2 2, Sullivan 0 0-0 0, Costa 3 1-2 7, Beattie 1 0-0 2, Schailey 0 0-0 0, Karstetter 2 0-0 4, Williams 0 1-4 1, Irwin 0 0-0 0, Sekunda 4 0-0 9. Totals 20 8-12 55
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Hollidaysburg4 8 11 6 - 29
State College10 13 20 12- 55
3-point goals: Hollidaysburg 4 (Consiglio, Viduya, Ottaway 2). State College 7 (Kanaskie 5, Sekunda, Nodell).
Team records: Hollidaysburg (7-17); State College (16-7).