Gripp shines in opener for Eagles

01/11/21 Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Tyrone's Damon Gripp drives by Central's Hunter Klotz.

TYRONE — Tyrone and Central played one of the first high school boys basketball games in District 6 Monday night, but at times the atmosphere resembled a summer league game more than the traditionally heated contests between the Mountain League rivals.

The Golden Eagles, who edged the Scarlet Dragons by two points in the district playoffs last February, led Monday’s contest by just three points late in the third quarter, but with just a few family members making up the crowd, the gym was almost silent.

That’s when Tyrone senior Damon Gripp went up for a defensive rebound, tipped the ball ahead to himself, collected it and drained a 3-pointer while being fouled and let out a scream and pumped his fists. Gripp completed the four-point play, and the Golden Eagles built their lead to 13 points before holding on for a 72-65 win in both teams’ season opener.

“That got us going,” Damon Gripp said. “The score was getting tight, and the time was running out. That was a big play to energize us and get us going.”

Hunter Klotz, who led Central with 19 points, said Monday’s game was certainly different than the last game between the two Blair County schools.

“Every game we play them, the bleachers are packed. I remember the last few seconds of our district playoff game last year it being crazy,” Klotz said. “It’s going to be weird this year, but we’re just happy to be playing.”

Gripp led all scorers with 28 points and scored 21 of those in the second half.

“I think it’s easier to play (in a mostly empty gym), because you don’t have to worry about the jitters,” Damon Gripp said. “It’s almost like a scrimmage. It was almost like practice, especially being on our home court that we play on every day.”

The Golden Eagles, who went 21-3 last season but came up one point short in the District 6 Class 4A championship game, made 15 3-pointers.

“We put a lot of time into shooting,” Tyrone coach George Gripp said. “Two years ago, we learned our lesson. We couldn’t throw the ball into an ocean (against a two-three zone). Guys were just backing off our guys. We really worked hard after their sophomore year every day after practice with a shooting machine, and it’s paid off. It’s good to see that. Our games are going to be on YouTube. Everyone is going to know. If we had a bad shooting night tonight, we would have seen zone forever, so it’s imperative that we come out and shoot like that every game.”

Tyrone led 34-26 at the half. Ten of their 11 field goals in the first two quarters were 3-pointers, which was part of the Central defensive game plan.

“They can really shoot the basketball, and obviously they showed that in the first half,” Central coach Paul Frederick said. “We did our best not to give them easy baskets or layups, but they made us pay, especially in that first half. I don’t know what they ended up with, but it was about 15 3-pointers, and if they hit that many, they are going to be really hard to beat.”

The Golden Eagles also got 12 points from Cortlyn Rhoades and three 3-pointers from Jake Taylor. Tyrone finished with just nine 2-point field goals.

“I thought early on, some of our guys were playing a little tentative,” George Gripp said. “I told them, ‘we’re not the Golden State Warriors, we can’t have the ball one foot from the basket and whip it out for a 3-pointer.’ It was working out for us at times, but sometimes we missed them. We have to take the shots under the hoop when they are there and have a little more balance.”

Central battled its way back into the game in the fourth quarter with the help of back-to-back 3-pointers from Cassimier Lowery, who finished with 12 points as did Devon Boyles and Eli Lingenfelter.

The Scarlet Dragons pulled within four on a Lingenfelter 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, but Gripp responded with one of his own with 1:31 left to put Tyrone up 67-60.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Frederick said. “I thought we fought back from a couple eight and 10-point deficits there. We were really competitive, and I like what we did. We have to shore some things up on the defensive end, but I like a lot of what I saw tonight.”

Both teams resume play on Thursday when Tyrone travels to Bellefonte and Central hosts Philipsburg-Osceola.

“They are a good team, obviously, and that’s a great first team to go against,” Klotz said. “It was really competitive, and it felt great to be back out on the court.”

CENTRAL (65): Klotz 7 3-5 19, Boyles 6 0-0 12, Kling 0 0-0 0, Lingenfelter 5 0-0 12, Smith 3 0-0 6, Bean 2 0-0 4, Lowery 5 0-0 12. Totals — 28 3-5 65

TYRONE (72): Taylor 3 0-0 9, Hoover 1 3-4 6, Gripp 10 2-3 28, Lucas 1 4-6 6, Rhoades 5 0-0 12, DeHaas 2 0-0 5, Lang 2 0-0 6, Gampe 0 0-0 0. Totals — 24 9-13 72


Central 17 9 15 24 — 65

Tyrone 14 20 17 21 — 72

3-point goals: Central 6 (Klotz 2, Lingenfelter 2, Lowery 2). Tyrone 15 (Gripp 6, Taylor 3, Rhoades 2, Lang 2, Hoover, DeHaas)

Officials: Brandon Hoover, Chris Rickens, Kevin Laird

Records: Central (0-1); Tyrone (1-0)

JV: Tyrone, 54-10. High scorers–Zack LeGars, T, 18; Seth Bean, C, 7


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