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Bison show heart, guts in victory

BEDFORD — Bedford’s 85-65 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference high school boys basketball victory over Penn Cambria Monday night provided a learning experience for both teams.

In a game that was much more hard-fought and closer than the final score would indicate, Penn Cambria learned that it possessed the resilience and spunk to battle back from a large deficit, while Bedford learned that it had the wherewithal and fortitude to stave off such a challenge.

After watching Penn Cambria use a tenacious full-court press to shave a 22-point third-quarter deficit to just two points midway through the fourth quarter, Bedford pulled away with a strong finish to win its conference opener and improve its overall record to 2-0.

Junior guard Steven Ressler led Bedford with a game-high 30 points, including seven 3-pointers, while senior forward Drew Hall added 24 points and junior forward Joey Koontz chipped in 18 for the Bisons, who had a 52-30 third-quarter cushion before Penn Cambria chipped away.

“We took some punches, gave some punches, and got the last punch,” Ressler said. “Their press was getting to us a little, but we kind of figured it out, held on, and got the win.”

Ressler’s father, Jason, Bedford’s first-year coach, knew that his team had been in a dogfight.

“It was a brawl,” Jason Ressler said. “In the third quarter, their pressure was killing us, and the wheels fell off for us, and they got our 20-point lead down to two. They deserve a lot of credit for their effort. We took a punch and came back, and I was glad we did.

“It shows a lot of heart,” Jason Ressler added. “We sucked it up, and closed the deall when we had to.”

Four players scored in double figures for Penn Cambria, led by 16 points from junior Jake Tsikalas, 13 from junior Carter Smith, 11 from senior Jake Martynuska, and 10 from sophomore Mason McCarthy.

Trailing, 61-50, Penn Cambria went on a nine-point run ignited by Carter’s 3-point play, a Tsikalas free throw, a three-point play on a driving bucket and free throw by McCarthy, and a bucket by freshman Garrett Harrold to close to within 61-59.

Bedford responded by ripping off the next eight points to pull out to a 69-59 advantage. Steven Ressler broke the Penn Cambria press and hit a length-of-the-court layup to start the Bedford rally, and Hall added a field goal to make it a 65-59 game. A transition layup by Koontz, and another layup by Hall made it 69-59 with about three minutes left and gave the Bisons some breathing room.

After Martynuska’s bucket made it a 69-61 game, Bedford closed strong by finishing the game on a 24-4 run.

Two free throws by sophomore guard Mercury Swaim, a steal and layup by Hall, two free throws by senior Miles Washington, a Hall layup, and an inside bucket by Koontz helped Bedford hike its lead to 79-63 in the closing minutes.

“We really finished the game well at the end,” Koontz said. “I really think that we showed some grit and good effort by beating them by 20 after they started to come back. This is a step in the right direction for us moving forward.”

And for Penn Cambria, as well.

“I’m really proud of the way that we fought,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “We know we have talent, but we know that we can’t afford to fall too far behind, like we did tonight, because it’s difficult to fight back. But we showed that we’re good when we get after it and believe in ourselves. We can build on that.”

Game notes: On Thursday night, Bedford hosts Bishop Guilfoyle and Penn Cambria hosts Forest Hills in Laurel Highlands Conference matchups … Penn Cambria won an exciting junior varsity game, 45-43, on a 45-foot 3-point shot at the buzzer by sophomore Cam Latterner. Brodie O’Donnell led Penn Cambria with 10 points, while Trent Price scored a game-high 20 for Bedford.

PENN CAMBRIA (65): Tsikalas 7 1-2 16, Karabinos 4 0-0 9, McCarthy 3 3-3 10, Smith 6 1-1 13, McCombie 0 0-0 0, Martynuska 4 0-0 11, Fogel 0 0-0 0, Harrold 2 0-1 4, Kochara 0 0-0 0, Broad 1 0-0 2, Murray 0 0-0 0, O’Donnell 0 0-0 0. Totals — 27 5-7 65.

BEDFORD (85): Koontz 8 2-2 18, S. Ressler 10 3-4 30, Swaim 3 2-2 9, Hall 10 1-3 24, Washington 0 4-5 4, Weber 0 0-0 0, Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 31 12-17 85.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria 9 13 23 20 — 65

Bedford 21 20 13 31 — 85

3-point goals: Penn Cambria 6 (Martynuska 3, Tsikalas, Karabinos, McCarthy); Bedford 11 (S. Ressler 7, Hall 3, Swaim).

Records: Penn Cambria (2-1 overall, 1-1 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference); Bedford (2-0 overall, 1-0 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference).

JV: Penn Cambria, 45-43. High scorers–O’Donnell, PC, 10; Price, BED, 20.

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