It may have been far from a typical basketball season for the State College Little Lions with only six wins, but the team is nonetheless pitted against the Altoona Mountain Lions for the district 6A title on Feb. 21 at Mt. Aloysius College.
This is familiar territory for SC because there are only three 6A teams in District 6, but getting to the 2020 PIAA Tournament will be a whole other matter.
Win or lose against Altoona, the Lions will enter a Sub-Regional playoff against teams from District 8 (Brashear, Taylor Alderdice) and District 10 (Erie, Mc-Dowell, Kennedy Catholic) with two teams advancing into the state tournament.
But Altoona is the immediate concern, and the Mountain Lions are a much improved team.
They finished 10-12 this season, in the very-tough Mid-Penn Commonwealth, and feature one of the best big men in the conference in senior center-forward P.J. Charles.
Charles will have outside help from two other seniors in guards K.J. Futrell and Caleb Pierce, who are both threats from long range or taking it to the basket.
State College will counter with two high-scoring guards of its own in shooter Johnny Friberg and point guard Cole Friberg.
The two teams split their season series this year with Altoona winning the first game on Jan. 3, 48-39, and State College taking the second game on Jan. 29, 45-44. The rubber-match will give the D6 trophy to the winner, and Altoona will have to be considered the favorite despite the 1-1 record against SC this season.
That said, look for this game between these two arch rivals to go down to the final minutes.
Gametime is at 7:30 p.m. at Mt. Aloysius College.
The Bellefonte Red Raiders came up with two big wins over the past week over East Juniata, 69-44, and over Bald Eagle Area, 48-39, in overtime.
But the biggest highlight from either win was Raider senior Ben McCartney scored his 1,000th career point in the East Juniata game.
McCartney scored 24 points altogether on the night, and he led the team to its sixth overall win of the season.
P-O OUSTED FROM PLAYOFFS
The Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties played their first playoff basketball game in 12 years on Feb. 18 at Cambria Heights, and for 30 minutes they looked like hardened postseason veterans.
P-O played the No. 8 seed Highlanders straight up all night, and were, in fact, leading the game by two points with just over two minutes to play.
But two quick baskets by Heights’ star Preston Lamb and two consecutive offensive fouls turned the tide against the Mounties and sparked a Cambria Heights rally.
The Highlanders scored 16 of the final 21 points in the game — all in the last two minutes — and pulled away from P-O in a 60-49, first-round win.
The win now puts Cambria Heights against No. 1 seed Ligonier Valley while the loss ends the Mounties’ season with a final record of 10-13.
Forward Ryan Whitehead scored 12 points while freshman guard Jacob Desimone had 10, and Kaleb Richardson and Parker Matson each had 8. Lamb scored 20 points for Camberia Heights.
For P-O, the loss could be chalked up to inexperience or even a bit of bad luck at the wrong time, but the Mounties nonetheless played a solid game throughout and just couldn’t finish. It will likely be an unpleasant lesson for a young team already looking ahead to next season.