Altoona solidified its positioning for the third seed in the upcoming District 6 Class AAAA high school boys basketball playoffs on Thursday night.
The question rapidly is becoming, though, whether the Mountain Lions will have any starters left by the postseason.
Already missing leading scorer DeShae Lee with a injury, Manny Span, Altoona's top rebounder, went down with a nasty-looking knee injury late in the third quarter and didn't return. The Lions, though, pulled together and controlled the fourth quarter to post a 51-39 victory against Bishop Guilfoyle at the AAHS Fieldhouse.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Matt Dry shoots between BG’s Brandon Chadbourn (left) and Zach Patterson.
Altoona moved within a game of .500 at 10-11 with one game left in the regular season, but the prospect of playing without Span, who averages 14 points and 12 rebounds, took a bit of luster off the rivalry triumph.
"That's our major big man," Altoona sophomore Jermaine Samuel said. "Without him, we're missing another teammate. Now that's two."
Lee was on the bench with his left wrist and hand in a cast when Span bit on a Sam McCloskey ballfake and came down awkwardly on the lobby-side baseline. He was carried off without putting any weight on his injured leg, and, after the game, his knee was heavily iced.
"We're going to have to have people definitely step up and get rebounds," Lion guard Brandon Lytle said.
The Mountain Lions did that on Thursday. McCloskey's layup off a feed from Pat Irwin - the play on which Span was injured with 37.7 seconds left in the third quarter - knotted the score at 34. Altoona, though, carried the fourh quarter, 17-5, to come out with their second straight win.
"We've had some adversity in the last few weeks with DeShae going down and some other situations that all teams go through, and we just seem to have guys step up," Altoona coach Paul Hasson said. "Jermaine Samuel came in and did a nice job tonight. Jeff Hancock and Jabril Hill came in and gave us a lift."
Samuel stepped into Span's shoes and held his own, scoring all four of his points in the fourth quarter.
"I knew I had to step up," Samuel said.
Matt Dry also scored four in the fourth on his way to a game-high 15 points. Lytle finished right behind with 13 and equaled Dry with three 3-pointers, including one from the corner with 6:06 left that ignited an 8-0 Altoona run to push the lead to nine over the next three minutes.
"We knew this was going be a big game for us, because it's big for playoffs. We knew we had to win this game to lock down third place," said Lytle, who opened the scoring by banking in a baseline 3-pointer. "I told Jermaine, 'You're going to get some minutes. Just come in and play your game.' I was just looking, when I had an open shot, to put it in. We're without our leading scorer. We need guys to step up. Right now, everyone is contributing."
Brandon Chadbourn paced Guilfoyle with nine points, while McCloskey and Damon Rickens each had eight off the bench. However, the Marauders were just 1-for-9 from the field in the last eight minutes.
"Tied at the half, tied at the end of the third quarter, I liked where we were. They just got a couple of second shots and got some shots to fall, and we missed some, and we had to start fouling. They hit their free throws," BG coach Chris Drenning said.
After big wins over Bishop Carroll and Somerset, the Marauders now have lost twice in as many days to drop to 16-5 with the District 6 Class A playoffs starting next week.
"The Cambria Heights game [Wednesday] was probably the worst game we've played from an execution standpoint. I thought we played better tonight. Sometimes you play a better team, and that's what happens," Drenning said. "I think if we can win [tonight], we'll be fine. We get a week to regroup."
Drenning was demonstrably upset when Span was injured.
"That put a damper on the whole thing. I hope Manny's OK. He's a good kid," Drenning said.
So do the Lions, but, either way, they have to make do.
"It's really big," Samuel said. "It's moving forward."
Game notes: Altoona won the JV contest, 36-30. ... Senior members of the Lioneer dance team were recognized at half time. ... Guilfoyle wraps up the regular season tonight when it hosts Central Cambria and holds its senior night. Altoona's last tune-up for the playoffs is on Tuesday at home against Hollidaysburg.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (39): Irwin 2 0-0 4, Drenning 1 2-2 4, Koehle 0 0-0 0, Chadbourn 3 3-5 9, Patterson 3 0-0 6, Fulare 0 0-0 0, McCloskey 3 2-2 8, Rickens 3 0-0 8, Nardelli 0 0-0 0, Fiore 0 0-0 0, Brumbaugh 0 0-0 0, Little 0 0-0 0, Kitt 0 0-0 0, Kibler 0 0-0 0. Totals - 15 7-9 39.
ALTOONA (51): Dry 5 2-2 15, Lytle 5 0-0 13, Acrie 3 0-0 6, Givens 3 2-4 8, Span 2 1-2 5, Hill 0 0-0 0, Samuel 1 2-2 4, Hancock 0 0-0 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, Dammann 0 0-0 0, Wansley 0 0-0 0, Simmons 0 0-0 0. Totals - 19 7-10 51.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle12 12 10 5 - 39
Altoona11 13 10 17 - 51
3-point goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 2 (Rickens 2); Altoona 6 (Lytle 3, Dry 3).
Records: Bishop Guilfoyle (16-5); Altoona (10-11).
Officials: Doug Moore, Jim Buchanan, Sam Zambanini.
JV: Altoona, 36-30. High scorers-Jamey Brumbaugh, BG, 15; Kevin Miller, A, 11.