STATE COLLEGE — The State College boys’ basketball team wanted to close 2007 on a positive note. They needed to, in fact, because the initial nine games of the season weren’t indicative of what fans are used to seeing from the Little Lions.
Thanks to a 57-47 win over George Junior Republic in the consolation game of the Kiwanis Holiday Basketball Classic on Saturday afternoon, the Little Lions will open 2008 on the uptick. And with the opening of their District 6 Class AAAA schedule coming at home Wednesday against rival Altoona, it will be a welcome infusion of confidence and momentum.
“It’s about time. We really needed this one going into Altoona,” said senior guard Pat St. Andrews, who had a breakout game himself with four 3-pointers and a team-high 14 points. “We really wanted to get one and get back on the right track.”
Whether or not there will be a carry-over effect remains to be seen but the Little Lions (4-6) were much more sensible on the offensive end Saturday, slicing their turnovers in half from Friday night’s 63-56 loss to Carlisle, and they frequently mixed and matched defenses to throw George Junior out of rhythm. Coach Drew Frank even went with wholesale substitutions, replacing all five players at once to generate different looks — and get everyone involved.
“It’s certainly something that we can keep in our back pocket, and I like the fact that we have confidence that we can use any of those players at any time,” Frank said.
The Little Lions held George Junior (2-8) without a field goal for the first 7:15 of the game while building a 12-4 lead late in the first quarter.
State College led by as many as nine points on two occasions in the second period but after Doug Sallade’s 15-foot jumper made it 21-12, George Junior went on a 9-2 run to close within 23-21. State College didn’t waver as Bryan Good and St. Andrews knocked down 3-pointers in the final 80 seconds of the half to give the Little Lions a 29-24 lead at halfime.
While employing his flex lineup, Frank changed things up on the defensive end, using man, zone and trapping looks to keep George Junior off balance. It was something he’s been wanting to do but situations in which State College has held managable leads have been infrequent so far.
“We just haven’t played with a lead this year,” Frank said. “And when you’re playing with a lead, you can show them a lot of different looks. If you’re down, you’re locked into what you have to do. We asked the kids to get us the lead and we’ll be able to change up defenses and it allowed us to take advantage of some of the particular skills that some of our players have at the defensive end.”
“We’re trying to get better at those zone looks to change things up,” St. Andrews, who was named to the all-tournament team. “It confused them and it can confuse any offense.”
There was no confusion when St. Andrews broke the game open with consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third quarter that gave State College a 38-28 lead. St. Andrews’ point total was not only a season-high but it his first double-digit output of the season.
“We finally got in a rhythm on offense and got the ball moving and I was getting a lot of open shots,” he said.
George Junior slowly pecked away at the lead, thanks to countless offensive rebounds that prolonged possessions. When Anthony Floyd made 1-of-2 free throws with 30.6 seconds remaining in the third, State College’s lead had been sliced to 41-38, but the Tigers could not pull any closer the rest of the way.
Jake Reeder and Jamar Smack each scored nine points for State College.
Floyd paced the Tigers with 16 points. Robert Tomoney, an all-tournament team pick, added nine. Championship game
Carlisle 61, Oliver 60 Anthony Coleman scored six of Carlisle’s nine points in the fourth quarter as the Thundering Herd edged Oliver for the tournament title.
Coleman finished with 16 points to pace Carlisle (8-3).
Shawn Ellis led Oliver (2-9) with 17 points but was held to three points in the second half. Sofion Moore added 16 and DeVaughn Copeland had 11 in the losing effort. Carlisle opened a 27-17 lead after the first quarter before Oliver stormed back to close within 39-37 at halftime.