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Local Athletes Got 2017 Off to a Good Start

by and on December 29, 2017 5:00 AM

It is more than appropriate that a look back at some of the Gazette’s biggest sports stories in 2017 should begin and end with the Penn State Nittany Lion football team.

After a breakout regular season in 2016 and a Big Ten championship, Penn State narrowly missed out on the college football playoff and instead was matched up against USC in the Rose Bowl.

The game turned out to be one of the best of any bowl game, although the outcome wasn’t very pleasant for Nittany Lion fans. USC kicked a last-second field goal to complete a fourth-quarter rally and upend Penn State, 52-49.

Forward to another 10-win season in 2017 and another meeting with a Pac-12 powerhouse, this time Washington, in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 30, in Arizona. The Lions will be looking for redemption as well as a springboard into what looks to be a transitional year for head coach James Franklin and his team.

Penn State’s football team, of course, was far from the only story in local sports, so we’d like to have a look back at some of the biggest ones, arranged by month.

This is part one of two, looking back on January through June.

JANUARY

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers had their sights set on another Super Bowl ring, but the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady had something to say about that.

The two teams met in Foxborough on Jan. 21 in the AFC Championship Game, and the Patriots treated the Steelers rather harshly in a 36-17 victory. Brady threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats advanced to pro football’s biggest stage (which they eventually won).

The high school winter sports seasons were all in full swing and there were some notable stories.

In Philipsburg, sophomore guard Halle Herrington entered the new year averaging over 20 points per game, but as the new year began, Herrington really began to turn it on.

In one stretch, she scored 35 or more points in six consecutive games, a streak only broken at Brookville when that team decided to foul her rather than let her shoot. Not a problem, though, since Herrington went 20-26 from the line and led a big comeback win for the Mounties.

In all, Herrington averaged just under 38 points for the month and finished the season at 30.3.

In other basketball news, the State College boys and girls, Penns Valley boys and girls, Philipsburg-Osceola girls, Bellefonte girls and boys and St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy boys were all making moves in January and all of them would find themselves in the District 6 playoffs in February.

FEBRUARY

February was all about the District 6 playoffs.

The SJCA boys were the No. 5 seed in Single-A, but ran into very good Juniata Valley in the first round. Juniata Valley ended the Wolves’ season with a second half rally in a 56-50 win.

The Penns Valley boys, ranked No. 9 in AAA, completed a double-digit comeback against Penn Cambria and advanced to the second round with a 52-49 win on Feb. 20 in Cresson. But waiting in the wings was No. 1 Richland, and PV faded in the second half and fell, 57-38, at Richland on Feb. 22.

In 5-A boys, Bellefonte entered as the No. 4 seed and traveled to Lock Haven for a firstround game against Central Mountain, but the Raiders were eliminated in a close 47-44 win.

The SC boys, on the other hand, had no trouble in the district championship game against Altoona on Feb. 24. The Little Lions were unstoppable in the second half, and they routed the Mountain Lions, 73-47, to take home the title and advance into PIAA inter-district play.

In girls’ D-6 play, Penns Valley ran into injury problems and entered the tournament without two major contributors. Still, the Rams beat Ligonier Valley 60-50 in the first round, but they could not get past Central on Feb. 23 in Martinsburg and their season ended with a 54-47 loss.

The surprising Bellefonte girls advanced into the D-6 final after a 42-36 win over DuBois on Feb.

21. The win pitted the Lady Raiders against Obama Academy out of Pittsburgh, but the academy’s size and experience won out and Bellefonte fell, 42-30.

The State College girls also met Altoona in the 6-A District 6 championship, but the girls fell 54-42. However, since two teams advanced from that bracket, SC played McDowell in the consolations and qualified for intradistrict play with a blowout 93-26 win.

The four Centre County wrestling team that traveled to the District 6 AAA championships at Altoona High School on Feb. 24 and 25 made quite a lot of noise in the annual D-6 spectacle.

They combined for three champions, 13 finalists, 10 second-place finishers and 25 regional qualifiers in the two-day event.

Bellefonte took local honors with eight regional qualifiers and one very special champion — Brock Port at 145.

Port won his fourth consecutive D-6 championship when he defeated Bald Eagle Area’s Gage McClenahan 12-4 in a tense match that went into tiebreakers after being knotted through regulation and the sudden victory period.

Among Bellefonte’s other qualifiers, there were three second-place finishers, Cole Stewart at 106, Keegan Rothrock at 132 and Chase Gardner at 152. Ryan Smith placed third at 120, and Alex Coppolo (113), Mason Cooper (170) and Sean Irvin (275) all finished fourth.

State College and Bald Eagle Area were not far behind Bellefonte with seven qualifiers each.

The Little Lions also had a champion when Cole Urbas defeated Caleb Turner from Central Mountain 11-2 to take his first D-6 title at 182. State College’s other qualifiers included three second-place finishers, Jacob Pammer (120), Ian Barr

(160) and Pete Haffner (220); two third-place finishers, Clayton Leidy (106) and Drew Linnes (285); and a fourth-place finisher, Adam Stover (126).

Bald Eagle Area did not have a wrestler win a championship, but Alex Nyman (113), Garrett Rigg (126), Seth Koleno (138) and Gage McClenahan (145) all finished second.

McClenahan, of course, pushed Port to the limit in their match at 145, and Koleno lost a heartbreaker to Nathan Swartz from Hollidaysburg, 3-2, in the final at 138.

BEA also qualified Dylan Bisel (third, 170), Clayton Giedroc (fourth, 132) and Garrett Giedroc (fourth, 106).

Centre County’s third champion came from Philipsburg-Osceola. Micah Sidorick edged State College’s Pete Haffner, 5-4, in the finals of the 220-pound bracket. Sidorick came back in the third period with an escape and a takedown to win the match and his first D-6 championship.

Levi Hughes (third, 138) and Josh Hubler (fourth, 182) also represented the Mounties at the regionals.

At the AA Southwest Regional Tournament, St. Joseph’s Academy 120-pound Jacob Powers defeated Penns Valley’s Darren Yearick to take the title. Powers beat Yearick by a score of 7-1, exactly the same score he won over Yearick by in the District 6 tournament. Both wrestlers advanced to the PIAA state tournament.

The Wolves’ Ethan Kauffman also advanced to the state tournament with a fourth-place finish in the 106 bracket.

Penns Valley’s Baylor Shunk qualified after finishing fifth in the 106-pound bracket.

MARCH

Wrestling and basketball playoffs continued to dominate the local high school sports scene.

Bellefonte’s undefeated and defending 145-pound champion Brock Port scored a single point on a second-period escape against BEA’s Gage McClenahan and he made it stand up for a 1-0 win over his season-long rival.

The two squared off in the championship bout of the AAA Northwest Regional Wrestling Championships on March 4 at Altoona High School, and for the second week in a row, Port came away a champion in heart-pounding fashion.

Port scored on an escape one minute into the second period and held on through charge after charge by McClenahan to take the win in regulation.

Both wrestlers moved on to the PIAA state tournament held March 10 and 11 at the Giant Center in Hershey. Port eventually finished second in the state after losing in the finals, but he nonetheless was more than proud of his accomplishments during his career.

As impressive as Port and McClenahan were, they were not the only Centre County entrants to find success. In all, five county wrestlers won Northwest titles — Port, Cole Urbas (State College) at 182, Pete Haffner (State College) at 220, Garrett Rigg (BEA) at 126 and Seth Koleno (BEA) at138.

In state-qualifying third place matches, Bellefonte’s Cole Stewart beat Andrew Brest from General McLane 3-0 at 106, and Ian Barr from State College defeated Carson Hanna from Du-Bois in the 160-pound bracket.

In the basketball playoffs, the State College boys, SC girls and Bellefonte girls all played in firstround PIAA games.

District 7’s Woodland Hills was first up for the Little Lions at BEA on March 11, and Tommy Sekunda led SC to an exciting 82-71 win over the Wolverines.

The D-7 No. 2-seeded Butler was next for SC, and that game went into overtime before the Little Lions fell by a score of 53-50.

In 5-A girls, Bellefonte ran into powerful Trinity and lost, but it was the first PIAA tournament appearance for Bellefonte since 2008 and first-year coach Adam Gearhart believed the team set a solid foundation for the future of the program.

And finally, the State College girls were eliminated by perennial D-7 power Mount Lebanon, 62-44, but their late-season play raised lots of optimism about the fu- ture.

One other note: The Penns Valley boys went 13-11 in 2016-17 which represented their 21st consecutive winning season at the school.

The State College boys’ swimming and diving team turned in a strong showing at the PIAA swimming and diving championships that were held March 25 and 26 at Bucknell University.

The Little Lions finished in fourth place overall with a team score of 156.5 in the AAA competition.

The Little Lions were led by two swimmers who each finished in the top three in his event.

Senior Tobias Van Dyke completed SC’s best performance of the weekend with a silver medal in the 500-yard freestyle, coming in with a time of 4 minutes, 26.32 seconds. Jack Sannem from LaSalle won the event with a time of 4:21.63. Still, Van Dyke’s finish was the highlight of the Little Lions’ season.

Freshman Matt Brownstead won the bronze medal in the 50-yard freestyle with a personal and team record time of 20.59. It was the first time anyone in State College team history went under 21 seconds in the event.

In all, the Little Lions took medals in six other events during the competition.

For the State College girls, Ruth Dangelo, Jodie Challis, Grace Dangelo and Abbey Whipple came in 20th in the 200-yard medley relay, Sarah Finton was 30th in the 200 freestyle and Ruth Dangelo was 29th in the 200 IM.

Whipple came in 28th in the 50 freestyle and 29th in the 100 freestyle, Grace Dangelo was 29th in the 100 butterfly, Maya Urbanski was 30th in the 500 freestyle, Ruth Dangelo was 30th in the 100 backstroke and Challis was 32nd in the 100 breaststroke. In the 200 freestyle relay, Meghan Hughes, Sarah Finton, Challis and Thalla Stout came in 20th place.

APRIL

Just like that, it was time for spring sports, but there was one April story from the basketball season: Philipsburg-Osceola guard Halle Herrington was named to the Class 3A Pennsylvania All-State Second Team after she put together a season to be remembered for the Mounties.

The 5-foot-5 guard averaged over 30 points per game in 2016-17, made 77 3-pointers, had 95 steals and scored 697 points. She led her team to 10 wins and back into the District 6 playoffs after a long absence.

And being just a sophomore, Herrington will be back for two more seasons with the Lady Mounties.

In the Mountain League track and field championships, Penns Valley distance runner Rebecca Bierly had her eyes set on qualifying for the PIAA meet in the 3200-meter race after her decisive win April 27 at Clearfield.

The senior may want to add the 1600 to her to-do list as well, because there wasn’t anyone in sight when she crossed the finish line in that event either.

Bierly clocked a time of 5:36.14 in the 1600, 17 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. In the 3200, she was even more dominant, finishing almost a minute in the clear with a time of 11:43.04.

Bierly and sprinter Isabella Culver were both double winners for the Rams on what was a rainy and cool day, and they led the Penns Valley girls’ team to a second-place finish overall with a total of 118.3 points. Clearfield edged the Rams by just five points to take the girls’ team championship, with Bellefonte coming in third with 78.4 points.

Culver was just as impressive as Bierly. Culver won the 400 (59.48) and the 200 (27.45) and was on PV’s winning 1600 relay team. Culver’s time in the 400 was one-hundredth of a second off the league meet record of 59.47.

Another Ram sprinter, Marissa Stecko, won the 100-meter in a time of 13.94.

Other local winners were Bellefonte’s Madison Marucci in the shot put (30-1) and Summer Shirey in the triple jump (32-10).

Bald Eagle Area tied for fourth place in the overall standings, and Philipsburg-Osceola finished in eighth place.

In the boys’ meet, Clearfield and Tyrone finished one-two with 151 and 140 points. Bellefonte had a strong showing as well, coming in third with 95 points.

The Red Raiders had three winners for the day. Nathan Wert won the pole vault (12-0), Brett Pope won the 3200 (9:57.67) and Cole Hovis won the 400 (53.35). Penns Valley’s Jared Hurd won the 300 hurdles in a time of 43.06, and BEA’s Mike Salvanish won the shot put (42-6).

Bellefonte finished second in the 3200 relay, with BEA fourth and Penns Valley fifth.

Other place winners in the boys’ meet were Marcus Woodford (PV), second in the 110 hurdles and in the high jump; Sam Gray (PV), third in the 1600 and the 800; Luke Hollar (BEA), third in the 400; Max Kroell (Bellefonte), third in the shot put; Garrett Fleck (PV), third in the discus; Moryelle Fernandez (Bellefonte), second in the long jump and triple jump; Dane Soltys (P-O) third in the triple jump; and Andrew Hovis (Bellefponte), third in the pole vault.

Penns Valley finished fourth in the team scoring, BEA was fifth and Philipsburg-Osceola came in seventh.

MAY-JUNE

Philipsburg-Osceola, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte and State College all had teams in this year’s District 6 softball playoffs.

P-O and BEA competed in the 3-A bracket, Bellefonte in 4-A and State College was 6-A.

The games began May 22, and all four teams were action on that day.

St. Joseph’s Academy and Philipsburg-Osceola had teams in the baseball District 6 tournament, while the Bellefonte and State College baseball teams qualified in the 5-A and 6-A brackets.

The Centre County baseball team came away with mixed results in the tournament.

Philipsburg-Osceola played an exceptional game in its 7-0 victory over West Shamokin in the first round of the 3-A bracket, but the Mounties could not keep it going against No. 1 seed Central.

Despite a solid effort by Cam Domblisky, P-O fell to a late inning Central rally by a score of 7-3 in the D-6 semifinal. The loss ended the Mounties’ season with a final record of 12-8.

In the Single-A bracket, St. Joseph’s Academy reached the semifinal with a convincing 12-6 victory over Blacklick Valley. The Wolves fell, however, in that game to No. 2 Homer Center, 3-1, May 23 in Homer City.

No. 4-seeded Bellefonte romped over Johnstown, 12-1, in the 4-A first round, but No. 1 Somerset ended the Red Raiders’ season with a close 3-2 victory in the semifinals.

Both teams had five hits on the day, but Somerset scored three runs in the first two innings and the Raiders could not make up the difference, despite mounting a two-run rally in the seventh inning.

The loss ended the Raiders’ season with a final record of 12-9.

The State College baseball team was seeded No. 1 in the D-6 6-A bracket and received a bye. Squaring off against Altoona in the District 6 6-A championship game at First Energy Field in Altoona on May 26, State College completely dominated the Mountain Lions in a 9-4 vic- tory.

The Little Lions rallied for five runs in the third inning and then four more in the fifth to take a 9-0 lead into the final two innings. Altoona scored four two-out runs in the seventh, but the Mountain Lions fell far short of becoming a threat.

State College senior and Penn State recruit Mason Mallott earned the win and was nearly untouched by the Altoona hitters in 5 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t allow a run, gave up just two hits, struck out 12 and walked two before being relieved with two outs in the sixth and a nine-run lead.

The game began an incredible run for the Little Lions deep into the PIAA tournament.

First, SC took care of North Allegheny, 1-0, on June 5 at BEA, and then the Lions faced Penn Manor on June 8 at Newport High School. SC advanced to just one game away from the state championship with a 3-1 win, but the dream of a state title was dashed in the semifinals against Dallastown. Dallastown took a 6-1 win in Hershey and qualified for the final, which it lost by a whisker, 1-0, to state champion Pennsbury.

Almost exactly the same fate awaited the Philipsburg-Osceola softball team.

The Lady Mounties defeated Peaqua Valley 1-0 in the first round of the PIAA tournament at Penn State on June 5. Then it was Deer Lakes next up at Mount Aloysius College on June 8. The Mounties throttled the high-scoring Deer Lakes offense with outstanding pitching and defense, coming away with a 6-2 win that advanced them into the state semifinal.

The win made way for a rematch with South Park, the team that eliminated P-O in 2016. And for the second year in a row, South Park emerged the winner and the Mounties saw their season come to an end.

After last year’s high-scoring slugfest, the game played this year June 12 at Mount Aloysius College was dominated by the pitchers and defenses of both teams.

The Lady Eagles put their first four hitters in the game on base, and RBI hits by Kaitlyn Morrison and pitcher Justine Dean gave South Park an early 3-0 lead. The Eagles added another run in the bottom of the fifth, and Dean, along with a strong defense, effectively protected the lead and forged a 4-0 victory over the Mounties.

Kylie Thal and Annie Kost had hits for P-O, and Maggie Peck pitched effectively in relief of starter Kam Harris, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Eagles and into the state final.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Pat Rothdeutsch covers Penn State football for The Centre County Gazette. Email him at [email protected]
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