Scoring only part of Holsinger’s game

By Philip Cmor

Matt Holsinger isn’t going to break the all-time scoring records at Central Cambria, and that’s OK with him.

There are plenty of other milestones in his sights. Or, as in the case of the Red Devils’ career rebounding mark, in his rearview mirror.

“It’s a record I’m definitely proud of because it’s an unselfish record,” Holsinger said of passing former CC greats Joe Vitko and Randy McKavish a few weeks ago. “I really cherish with pride that I was able to get that record. That was a good one to get.”

While defense doesn’t always draw the attention, rare talents still find ways to make themselves a factor through their mere presence, like Bill Russell in the NBA and Patrick Ewing in college basketball. The 6-foot-6 Holsinger is one of like that on the local high school level.

Some opponents chose to avoid him completely, and others challenged him and often got their shots rejected or altered. Whichever, the end result much more often than not was a Red Devil victory, as Central Cambria claimed its second-ever District 6 championship this season in Class 3A and advanced to the state’s elite eight.

In recognition of his performance, Holsinger has been voted the Altoona Mirror High School Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2016-17, joining a very short list of juniors to ever been voted to receive the honor by area coaches, Mirror staff and Mirror correspondents.

Holsinger beat out senior teammate Evan Bopp by a narrow margin for the award. Joining them on the first team are the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic backcourt combination of Luke Ruggery and Josh Trybus. Altoona big man Jayvion Queen rounds out the first team. Queen is a junior, Ruggery a sophomore.

The second team includes a pair of Moshannon Valley Black Knights — Connor Holobinko and Curtis Neff — along with Bellwood-Antis pivot Jarrett Taneyhill, Hollidaysburg guard Austin Finochio and Central guard Kyle Dodson.

Central Cambria’s Adam Stephan was voted coach of the year.

Four of the top seven vote-getters this year stand 6-5 or taller, but Holsinger loomed largest in a season of quality big men locally. He finished second on the Devils by averaging 16.7 points per game, but, most impressively, he averaged almost 10 defensive boards per contest — checking in at 13.1 rebounds overall — while blocking 4.4 shots.

Stephan said, though, that Holsinger’s contributions transcend numbers.

“He’s just a big kid inside. He’s hard to defend inside. Him being inside opens up everything else for us offensively. He rebounds very well and he protects the rim very well defensively,” Stephan said after one contest this season.

“This year Matt’s really stepped up in games. He’s a leader on and off the court for the team. He knows the game extremely well and is an extremely hard worker. His hard work in the offseason is paying off. He’s a tremendous asset for us, like helping the younger kids. He’s like having another coach on the floor,” Stephan said on another occasion.

Indeed, his blocked shot numbers actually were a bit on the low side, although he rejected five or more 13 times with a season-high of 11 against Cambria Heights. The fact is, like teams refusing to throw against Deion Sanders in the NFL, some teams just stayed outside of 12 feet from the bucket in the halfcourt against the Devils because Holsinger was so imposing.

“That would deter guys from going to the basket. We just assume he’s going to stand there, and he’s not a player to stand there. He’s going to attack the ball, and he did,” Richland coach Greg Burke said.

“I was a little intimidated,” North Catholic coach Dave Long said. “I saw him in a previous game, and he altered six or seven shots.”

With Holsinger anchoring the defense, CC held 17 of 29 foes to 51 points or less.

Williamsburg’s Brock Anders finished runner-up to Stephan in a tight vote for coach of the year.