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Fast starts part of early success for Bishop Guilfoyle

The Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School boys basketball program has enjoyed significant success over the past two seasons, reaching the PIAA Class 2A state championship game last March and bolting to ten wins in its first 11 games this year.

Yet, BG coach Chris Drenning has pinpointed at least one order of business for his team to address this season — getting off to fast starts in games.

“The emphasis all year has been to get off to good starts,” Drenning said. “Even last year, it often took us five or six minutes to get going in games. We’re trying to get ourselves off to quicker starts.”

The Marauders checked that box emphatically Wednesday night at the Pleasant Valley gymnasium, bolting to a 29-4 lead after one quarter and operating in cruise control the rest of the way, en route to a 76-40 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference rout of Penn Cambria.

Cameron Khoza, a 6-foot-6 junior forward who transferred to BG this year from Boalsburg’s Saint Joseph’s Academy, scored eight of his game-high 15 points in the first quarter for the Marauders, who converted 11 of 18 floor shots in the opening eight minutes.

Senior guards Jessiah Witherspoon, who scored 14 points in the game, and Kyle Ruggery, had seven points apiece in the first quarter for BG, which closed the quarter with an 18-point run.

“We made everything early, and when the kids relax, it’s easier for them to make shots,” said Drenning, whose team improved to 10-1 overall and 9-0 in the conference. “Penn Cambria is a good team. We didn’t expect to get off to such a good start, to be honest.

“I’ve been on the other end (of that lopsided score) many times,” Drenning said. “It happens to everybody.”

Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan, whose team dropped to 7-6 overall and 4-5 in the conference, said that his team was blindsided by BG’s intensity and athleticism.

“We knew that they were going to come at us like an angry bunch of yellow jackets,” Ronan said. “We weren’t ready for them. We played very timid after getting stung by them.

“They’re relentless and athletic, they’ve got it all, and they did what great teams do tonight,” Ronan added. “They’re strong, fast, they communicate well, and they shoot the heck out of it. They’re definitely one of the best teams I’ve seen in my 12 years as a head coach.”

Senior forward Michael Montecalvo was the third player in double figures in the game for BG, with 10 points.

The Marauders made 27 of 54 floor shots in the game for an even 50 percent from the field.

“One of our strengths the last couple years is that we’ve had pretty good scoring balance,” Drenning said. “We have a lot of people who can put the ball in the basket, and we’re tough to guard against.”

Ronan was quick to give credit where it was due.

“Give them all the credit in the world,” Ronan said of the Marauders. “We know they’re a very good team, and we knew this was a tall task for us tonight. After the first three minutes, it was pretty much over.”

Junior Chayce McCombie led Penn Cambria, which made 16 of 43 from the floor, with 10 points.

Drenning has been pleased with his squad’s team mentality.

“We’re far from perfect, and we have a lot of stuff to work on, but we’re an experienced team, and I’m happy with how we’re sharing the ball,” Drenning said.

Game notes: BG outrebounded Penn Cambria, 30-18, with Khoza and senior Will Helton grabbing five apiece. Jake Tsikalas and Conner Karabinos had five rebounds apiece for Penn Cambria, which hosts Central Cambria Friday night … BG visits Westmont Hilltop Friday night. The Marauders’ scheduled home game with Perry Saturday afternoon has been postponed because of anticipated bad weather. “We’re going to try to reschedule it,” Drenning said.

PENN CAMBRIA (40): Karabinos 1 1-2 4, Smith 0 0-0 0, Tsikalas 3 1-2 7, McCombie 4 1-1 10, McCarthy 1 1-2 3, Martynuska 2 0-0 5, Harrold 2 0-0 4, Fogel 1 1-2 3, O’Donnell 1 0-0 2, Murphy 1 0-1 2, Reese 0 0-0 0. Totals — 16 5-10 40.

BISHOP GUILFOYLE (76): Witherspoon 3 7-7 14, Ruggery 4 0-0 9, Helton 2 0-0 4, Montecalvo 4 1-2 10, Khoza 6 0-0 15, Wood 1 2-4 5, Haigh 3 0-0 9, Yanoshak 1 1-1 3, Kiesewetter 0 0-1 0, Woolridge 2 0-0 4, Smith 1 0-0 3, Adams 0 0-0 0, Machado 0 0-0 0, Negola 0 0-0 0. Totals — 27 11-15 76.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria 4 12 14 10 — 40

Bishop Guilfoyle 29 19 16 12 — 76

3-point goals: Penn Cambria 3 (Karabinos, McCombie, Martynuska); Bishop Guilfoyle 11 (Khoza 3, Haigh 3, Montecalvo, Witherspoon, Ruggery, Wood, Smith).

Records: Penn Cambria (7-6 overall, 4-5 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference); Bishop Guilfoyle (10-1, 9-0).

Officials: Skip Dry, Dave Heim, Sean Albright.

JV: Bishop Guilfoyle, 55-42. High scorers–Latterner, PC, 11; Kiesewetter, BG, 14.

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