Sporting identical 10-3 records at the season midway point, the Tyrone Golden Eagles varsity boys basketball team traveled to Huntingdon Friday night to take on the Bearcats and begin the second cycle of play in the newly revised Mountain League. The league was reorganized for the 2007-8 basketball season into two divisions: Central Mountain, Indian Valley, Bellefonte, Lewistown and Huntingdon make up the Allegheny Division, while Central, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola, Tyrone and Bald Eagle Area are the Nittany Division members. The league plans to crown divisional champions and release divisional all-star teams at the conclusion of the season. (For the league’s status at the conclusion of the first cycle of play, please see the table inset.)
When these two teams met earlier in the season on December 5th at the Tyrone gym, Huntingdon had the opportunity to play two games prior to Tyrone, while it was Tyrone’s first game out of the blocks. The Eagles had a difficult time getting started on offense throughout the game, and fell prey to numerous penetration and dish-offs by the Bearcats for far too many easy baskets. The Eagles were not yet sure of themselves as a team at both ends of the floor, and the result was a disappointing loss to the Bearcats by a score of 53-35. Since then, both teams have experienced a great deal of success in the league: Tyrone has been able to sweep all four of it’s competitors in the Nittany Division in accumulating a 7-2 first cycle record, while Huntingdon has overcome all the Allegheny Division opponents except for Indian Valley on their way to an impressive 8-1 first cycle record.
The basketball series between Tyrone and Huntingdon over the years within the Mountain League has always been an exciting one, with many memorable games where athletes on both sides have given their all and gone beyond fan expectations. Many remember the 1999 District 6 AAA championship matchup where Tyrone won its only District title in basketball over the Bearcats. Last night’s matchup at Huntingdon was no different, as the two rivals would battle right to the end in a classic contest. In the end, the Golden Eagles showed that they can play on anyone’s floor, as they came together as a team and battled their way to a tough 48-47 win. The game didn’t progress as Tyrone fans might have expected, but the the Eagles showed a grit and determination in which they just refused to lose.
Starting the game off in the first quarter, Huntingdon struck quick with two Eric Buza field goals to go up 5-0, until junior starter Travis Peterman broke the ice at 5:55 with one of his three 3 point shots on the evening to get Tyrone in the game at 5-3. As the teams traded baskets with the Bearcats up 13-8, Tyrone called timeout at 3:45 to make adjustments. But as the first session ended, the Eagles still found themselves down 17-12. Matt Brooks contributed 3 field goals during the period and Steve Catich a three-pointer to keep Tyrone in the game.
In the second quarter, the intense back and forth nature of this game continued. Catich scored a field goal and free throw at 5:30 to pull the Eagles within two at 17-15, but Buza scored quickly again to extend the Bearcats to a 19-15 lead. At 3:29, Tyrone’s Ben Ingle was fouled on a right-side layup, and the junior calmly sank both shots to get Tyrone back to a two point game, 19-17. Another score from Huntingdon was followed by a putback basket from Catich at 2:35 to make it 21-19. As both teams struggled to pull away in the game, the Bearcat’s Buza struck again at 1:50 with a long 3-pointer to give Huntingdon a 24-19 advantage. But Catich matched that at 1:30 with his own 3-pointer to pull back to a 24-22 score. A down-low basket by Huntingdon’s Mike Fisher bumped the lead to 4 points at 26-22, but again Tyrone stepped up again as junior Kyle Updyke hit a three from the right side to get the Eagles within one at 26-25. Mike Fisher would get loose once again to score, making it 28-25, but Tyrone’s Nate Dane took a pass midway in the key and sank a 5-footer to close the first half with Huntingdon clinging to a thin 28-27 lead.
Coming out determined at the start of the second half, the Eagles got a basket off an inbound pass to senior Brandon Gehret to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 29-28. But a loose ball on the other end was put in the basket by Huntingdon’s Andy Young to quickly grab the lead back at 30-29. At 5:45, Peterman hit his second 3-pointer of the night to give his team a 32-30 lead. Almost two minutes later, after a long possession with the Eagles playing solid man defense, the Bearcats were able to squeeze a pass to Thomas Burton, and he tied the game at 32-32. But if the Bearcats thought they were surging, senior Matt Brooks quickly put that notion to rest with back to back field goals, giving Tyrone a 36-32 lead. Huntingdon battled back again with a layup from Burton from an inbound pass, and a steal and layup by point guard Derek Heath. That knotted the game at 36. A Tyrone foul at 1:10 sent Huntingdon’s Mike Fisher to the line where he sank one of two to give the lead back to the Bearcats, but another jumper by Tyrone’s Brooks from the left elbow gave the lead back to the Eagles at 38-37 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The 4th quarter continued the action as Huntingdon stole the lead back at 39-38 with a quick pass and layup from Andy Young. But at 7:01, Tyrone’s Kyle Updyke would hit his second 3-pointer to put his team on top at 41-39. A Tyrone foul at 5:56 sent Burton to the line where he hit both shots to tie the game at 41. A failed free throw opportunity from Heath after a Catich foul was followed up with a score from Huntingdon to tie the game at 41, but Nate Dane broke loose down low for a right-handed layup to put the Eagles up 43-41. The Bearcats’ Andy Young hit one of two free throws to get within one at 43-42, and then the Eagles turned the ball over at 2:48 on a 5-second inbound call. Sixteen seconds later, the Eagles tied up the ball, gaining possession. Coach Gripp called a timeout at 1:41, and when the game resumed, Nate Dane was fouled on a drive to the basket. He sank both free throws to give the Eagles a 45-42 lead. At 1:18, Eric Buza threw up a long 3-pointer that went through the net, once again tying the game. But moments later, Travis Peterman answered quickly with his final 3-pointer, to put the Eagles up at 48-45. The Bearcats called a timeout, and resumed the game with a layup from Derek Heath to cut the lead to 48-47. A Tyrone turnover on the baseline gave the ball back to the Bearcats again, but Nate Dane pulled a strong offensive rebound to prevent another Huntingdon score. He passed to Updyke, who was quickly fouled. He missed the front end of the one-on-one, and Huntingdon called time with 3.8 seconds to go to set up their final play. On the inbound, Bearcat guard Derek Heath was called for travelling, and Tyrone got the ball back at 0.9 seconds.
Afterwards, Coach Gripp said he and the boys were estatic about the win. “The team has come together in leaps and bounds with more balanced scoring and have developed into a road warrior type of team, winning several tough games at away gyms. After a lot of work in the off-season, it is great to experience some of the fruits of that labor.”