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Penn Cambria brings home impressive road win in Laurel Highlands

By Nate Ritchey

nritchey@altoonamirror.com

JOHNSTOWN — Entering their Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference battle, Penn Cambria and Richland each sported one loss with both teams suffering defeats to Bishop Guilfoyle.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone when Wednesday night’s matchup was intense, back-and-forth at times and full of good plays.

The one difference is the Panthers utilized more runs on the offensive end, which allowed them to continually separate themselves from the Rams.

In the end, Penn Cambria’s largest advantage came in the final quarter and it provided enough of a springboard as the defense held off any potential Richland rally in earning a 48-43 victory on the road.

“That’s a Laurel Highlands battle right there between two of the best,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “There’s no other way to put it. Both teams just battled their hearts out. I think both teams were a little sluggish offensively, but I think that had a lot to do with how physical it was too.”

To Ronan’s point, the Panthers turned the ball over 20 times while the Rams had 21.

With the win, Penn Cambria moved to 13-1 overall and 9-1 in the LHAC, while Richland fell to 9-3 and 7-2. More importantly, this was the only meeting of the season, so the Panthers hold the tiebreaker if it would be needed at the conclusion of the schedule.

With Penn Cambria clinging to a 32-27 lead after three quarters of play, Richland’s Trent Rozich scored inside to cut the difference to three.

PC’s Vinny Chirdon knocked a 3-pointer for his only points of the night before Rozich turned a steal by teammate Luke Raho into a two-handed slam dunk that erupted the Ram faithful and made the score 35-31 with 6:54 left to play.

Rather than hang their heads and allow the home team to steal momentum, the Panthers responded on the ensuing trip with a trey from Easton Semelsberger — his third of the night.

Following a missed shot by the Rams, Mason McCarthy, who tied Rozich with a game-high 17 points, converted a layup at 6:03 to give the Panthers their largest lead of nine (40-31).

“One of the best traits with this team here is their experience,” Ronan said of his Panthers. “They don’t let things rattle them. We’ve been in this situation a lot this year on the road — and at home — and we’ve found a way to withstand those charges and come back and throw the next punch.”

Richland immediately got within five (40-35) on layups by Rozich and Griffin LaRue but McCarthy had an answer with a layup of his own.

A free throw by Rozich and two from LaRue had the PC edge at just four with 3:48 on the clock.

The Panthers’ Garrett Harrold, who had four of his nine points in the fourth, grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in.

After trading turnovers, Rozich got fouled inside on a good layup attempt but was unable to made the foul shot — keeping the game at 44-40 in the Panthers’ favor.

A floater by Harrold, a free throw by LaRue and layup by Zach Grove off a McCarthy steal and kick ahead had Penn Cambria sealing the game with a 48-41 lead with 11 ticks remaining.

“Credit to them (Penn Cambria) they hit some shots,” Richland coach Joel Kaminsky said. “At the same time, we’ve got to get better on the defensive end on not giving up easy shots. It was a couple of broken plays that led to easy layups. We just can’t have that in a game where you’re playing a tough opponent.”

LaRue made an uncontested layup to set the final with five seconds remaining.

Penn Cambria began the game hitting as it got a coast-to-coast layup from Harrold followed by a trifecta and driving layup from McCarthy to stake the visitors to a 7-0 lead at 5:59.

“I told them (Richland) this is a physical team and they’re going to hit the offensive glass” Kaminsky said. “The first quarter, I don’t know how many offensive rebounds they had but it was an issue. We just didn’t match their physicality today.”

Richland responded by reeling off the next eight points when Raho buried a 3-pointer to make it 8-7 at the four minute mark.

McCarthy, who scored 11 points in the opening half, scored on a putback to send the Panthers into the second quarter up 12-11.

Camron Latterner came up with a steal and pass-ahead to McCarthy, and then scored a bucket of his own to put PC up 16-11 a little over a minute into the second quarter.

The two teams went back-and-forth before Semelsberger drove the lane, drew the low post defender and then threw a sideways pass over his head to McCarthy for a layup with 32 ticks showing to send the Panthers into the break with a 20-18 edge.

PC used another 7-0 run — this time in the third quarter — after Rozich knotted the game at 21-21 when he completed the and-1 opportunity at 6:31.

“We always talk about coming out strong out of the first half and second half,” Ronan said. “We’ve been doing a nice job of that for probably the past 10 games. Especially on the road, you can’t come on the road and get punched in the mouth and get knocked out early — it’s just so hard to come back. We’ve been doing a really good job of throwing the first couple of punches in each half.”

A layup by Sam Penna closed the Rams’ gap to 32-27 heading into the fourth stanza.

PENN CAMBRIA (48): Semelsberger 3 0-0 9, Reese 0 0-0 0, McCarthy 8 0-1 17, Gar. Harrold 4 1-3 9, Grove 4 0-2 8, Chirdon 1 0-0 3, Murphy 0 0-0 0, Latterner 1 0-0 2, Shuagis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 1-6 48.

RICHLAND (43): S. Penna 4 0-0 8, Raho 2 0-0 6, Stahl 2 0-0 5, Larue 2 3-4 7, Rozich 7 3-7 17, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Pollino 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 6-11 43.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Penn Cambria 12 8 12 16 — 48

Richland 11 7 9 16 — 43

3-point field goals: Penn Cambria 5 (Semelsberger 3, McCarthy, Chirdon); Richland 3 (Raho 2, Stahl).

Records: Penn Cambria (13-1 overall, 9-1 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference); Richland (9-3, 7-2).

Officials: Sean Albright, Chris Rickens, Brandon Hoover.

JV: Penn Cambria, 51-28. High scorers — Gavin Harrold, PC, 22; Henry Levander, R, 8.

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