Sixteen fourth-quarter points on a night where Dennis Fisher made history weren’t enough for the Bald Eagle Area boys’ basketball team to advance any farther at this level.
But despite their 59-54 loss to Northern Cambria in the District 6 Class AA semifinals at Hollidaysburg High School on Wednesday, the Eagles (21-3) had already done enough to qualify for the PIAA tournament.
Their path to a state championship may have gotten a bit tougher, however. By losing to the Colts on Wednesday, the Eagles fell into the District 6 Class AA consolation game where they will play Penn Cambria on Friday. Now the Eagles are guaranteed a matchup with the No. 1 or No. 2 seed out of the WPIAL in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.
“If we’re going to play them, let’s play them now and get it over with, see who’s the best,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said of his team’s potential PIAA opponent. “I’ll put my guys in the ring. There are some good teams out there, but I’m anxious to see how good we are.”
Against the Colts, the Eagles came up just short after a back-and-forth first half in which Northern Cambria (21-4) seized a 32-30 lead.
Fisher led all scorers with 23 points and hit a high water mark, sinking his 1,000th and 1,001st career points on a midrange jumpshot with 4:12 to play in the game. At that point Northern Cambria led 54-44 after BEA shooters went cold in the third quarter.
In the third, BEA shot just 3-for-9 while their Colt counterparts capitalized. Northern Cambria got eight points from Nick Lee and nine combined from Adam Polites, Josh Banatesta and Jeff Hogan to take a 49-38 lead into the final period.
“What a game. Two teams that wanted to go to the district finals,” Butterworth said. “Neither team gave. They made the shots when they counted down the stretch and you can’t take anything away from them.”
After a monster second quarter in which he rang up 10 points — the most for any player in any quarter — Fisher looked like he would pull BEA back into the game. He scored four of BEA’s eight third-quarter points then added seven more in the fourth quarter.
“He’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached. He’s all heart, plays hard,” Butterworth said. “He came out there and put us on his back in the third quarter and he was keeping us in the game,” Butterworth said. “He wanted the ball.”
And the Eagles wanted to make a comeback of it.
They were able to cut Northern Cambria’s lead to 59-54 with less than 30 seconds left but couldn’t get the open looks required to nail shots in the waning seconds.
“I’m not disappointed other than we lost,” Butterworth said. “My team played hard and did not quit. Seven seconds to go, we’re still in the game.”
Bryan Greene and sophomore Brandon Gettig finished with 10 points apiece for BEA while Bryce Greene added four. Ryan Dyke, Tony Riley and Clayton Cingle provided secondary scoring, chipping in a combined seven points for BEA.