Altoona seniors Matt Dry and Brandon Lytle didn't seem to mind taking turns sharing the second-half spotlight Monday night at the AAHS Fieldhouse.
Lytle sparked a key third-quarter surge and then Dry buried nine fourth-quarter free throws to close the door on the Mountain Lions' 46-38 triumph over Central Mountain on senior night.
"They did a lot of things," Altoona coach Paul Hasson said of his two senior guards. "They not only scored, but had to defend [Central Mountain's] top scorers."
Lytle started to shift the game's momentum at the 4:55 mark of the third quarter when his aggressive driving layup cut the Central Mountain lead to 25-23. He hit a free throw a few seconds later and then scored Altoona's final five points of the quarter, including an off-balance 15-foot jumper at the buzzer, to give the Mountain Lions a 33-27 lead.
Dry, Altoona's 6-foot point guard, controlled the tempo the entire fourth quarter. He scored on a layup early in the quarter then connected on 9-of-12 free throws to seal the victory.
And with less than four minutes to go in the game and Altoona leading by eight (39-31), Dry quarterbacked a two-man weave with Lytle that milked almost a minute and a half off the clock to reduce the number of scoring chances for the Wildcats.
"Dry handled the ball very well," said Central Mountain coach Scott Baker, whose Wildcats fell to 13-6. "We were trying to keep the ball out of his hands. We wanted anybody but him [on the line]. In the second half he really handled the ball well and knocked down foul shots."
Lytle, who finished with a game-high 15 points, and Dry, who chipped in 13 points, also turned in solid performances on the defensive end.
Central Mountain's top scorers, guards Cole Renninger and Tyler Everhart, scored 28 and 13 points, respectively, in the first meeting between the two teams - a 57-56 win by the Wildcats just 10 days ago. Dry and Lytle clamped down on defense and held the duo to a combined six second-half points, including zero from Everhart.
"Last game Renninger had 28 points, so I knew I had to step up on defense," Lytle said.
That defense combined with the second-half scoring of Lytle and Dry made the difference.
"We lost a tough one down there and it felt really good to come back and get a win," said Hasson, whose team improved to 9-11 overall. "We made a few adjustments in the third quarter and hit some shots. In the last six or seven games we've been coming out strong in the third quarter and that really propelled us the rest of the way tonight."
Altoona ran out to a 7-2 lead to start the game, capped by a Kevin Givens layup midway through the first quarter. Central Mountain rattled off 12 straight points for a 14-7 advantage before a Tony Acrie jumper, and more buzzer-beater heroics from Lytle, a 3-pointer to end the quarter, sliced the Central Mountain lead to two, 14-12.
Renninger's floater in the lane gave the Wildcats a 25-21 edge early in the third quarter. The Mountain Lions responded by scoring the next 10 points, capped by a free throw from Lytle, to seize a 31-25 advantage, and then ended the quarter with Lytle's jumper and a 33-27 lead.
"I wasn't forcing anything and just finished when I got to the hoop," Lytle said.
Altoona junior forward Manny Span and Givens, a sophomore, flexed their muscles in the paint. Span finished with 10 points and 19 rebounds, while Givens chipped in 11 rebounds for the Mountain Lions.
Renninger led Central Mountain with 15 points and Von Walker added 11 rebounds.
Altoona senior guard DeShae Lee, who is the team's leading scorer at 18 points per game, has a broken left hand - his shooting hand - and did not dress for the game. He is out for the year, according to Hasson.
Game notes: Altoona senior players Dry, Lytle, Lee, Jeff Hancock and Jabril Hill were honored before the game along with three-year manager Tyler Martynuska Altoona and Central Mountain are both in the hunt for spots in the District 6-AAAA playoffs in a few weeks On Thursday, Altoona hosts Bishop Guilfoyle and Central Mountain travels to Bellefonte.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (38): Everhart 3 0-0 8, Turchetta 2 0-0 4, Walker 1 0-0 2, Renninger 5 4-4 15, Wise 2 0-0 5, Blazina 0 0-0 0, Meeker 2 0-0 4, Stevenson 0 0-0 0, Peddigree 0 0-0 0, Klein 0 0-0 0. Totals - 15 4-4 38.
ALTOONA (46): Dry 1 11-14 13, Lytle 6 2-4 15, Hancock 0 0-0 0, Hill 0 0-0 0, Span 4 2-9 10, Givens 2 0-0 4, Acrie 2 0-1 4, Samuel 0 0-0 0. Totals - 15 15-28 46.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central Mountain 14 9 4 11 - 38
Altoona 12 9 12 13 - 46
3-point goals: Central Mountain 4 (Everhart 2, Renninger, Wise); Altoona 1 (Lytle).
Records: Central Mountain (13-6); Altoona (9-11).
JV: Altoona, 51-21. High scorers - Brett Peddigree, CM, 9; Kevin Miller, A, 15.
Officials: Dave Hiem, Jim Buchanon, Mike Andrews.