It’s a strange circumstance the Bald Eagle Area boys’ basketball team is facing this weekend.
The Eagles are in the postseason, have lost two straight games, yet their season will continue a little longer.
While they would like the third quarter back that they played Friday night in the District 6 Class AA consolation game, they are happy to have the consolation’s consolation prize.
“We’re trying to keep them focused and tell them that,” said BEA coach Bill Butterworth, whose team will play its first PIAA tournament game since 2006 next Saturday. “That’s a tough situation. You lose two in a row and you’re still going into the state playoffs, you try to keep them focused.”
Butterworth’s team had a rough third quarter and ended up with a 68-43 loss to Bishop McCort at Hollidaysburg High School.
The reward is a trip to the Pittsburgh area to face the winner between Beaver Falls and Burrell, who play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the District 7 title game, in the PIAA first round.
“It’s weird, but it’s still kind of exciting that we’re going to the state playoffs,” said senior forward Dennis Fisher, who had seven points, five rebounds and four blocks. “We still have a chance to do something great. We’ve got to keep our heads up and keep going.”
Bryan Greene, Brandon Gettig and Jeff Bennett each added six points as BEA (21-4) struggled through an 18-for-46 shooting performance.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Fisher said. “The shots weren’t falling and all their shots were falling.”
The Crimson Crushers (18-8) were a much-sharper 28-for-57, paced by a 24-point performance from Billy Hipp.
“I think he could have stood out there at halfcourt and threw it over his head backwards and it would have gone in tonight,” Butterworth joked. “Some of those shots he made were (not the easiest).”
McCort also got eight points from Jordan Spangler and seven from Adam Pastorek.
Down by 11 points at halftime, BEA started the third quarter well with layups for Gettig and Ryan Dyke in the first minute to pull within seven.
But Hipp and Nate Neiderhiser drained back-to-back 3-pointers, and the flood gates were open. The Eagles would score every now and then, but for every BEA basket, the Crushers netted two, and soon the margin reached 55-33 moments into the fourth quarter to close a 23-8 run.
“Usually that’s our quarter to make a run – which we did start making a little run,” Butterworth said. “Then we turned the ball over like three times there and gave it all.”
Hipp scored seven of his points I the frame, and as a team McCort made 8 of its 10 field goal attempts.
“When we commit to the defensive end, there’s a lot of good things that can happen,” Crushers coach Pat Hollern said. “It’s gearing our mindset for March, and March is physical, it’s emotional and you have to fight through all that type of stuff to make sure you’re playing your best basketball.”
BEA sank just 5 of 16 shots in the quarter, and also did not have many chances for put-backs. For the game the Eagles were outrebounded 32-25.
“We didn’t rebound well tonight, and in that third quarter they got a couple breakouts off of rebounds,” Butterworth said. “Instead of us getting a couple offensive put-backs, they were getting run-outs on rebounding.”
BEA never got closer than 17 the rest of the way.
Spangler scored seven of his eight points in the second quarter, all during an 11-0 run that put McCort up for good. Except for a Spangler 3-pointer, all of the points were from within three feet.
“They were real physical with us,” Fisher said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”
BEA will have to put the two losses behind them, and focus on a week to prepare for the toughest opponent they will meet all season – but at least they will still be playing in March.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Butterworth said. “It’s probably going to be Beaver Falls. If you’re going to win you’ve got to beat the best, so we’ll have to go out and do what we can.”
Said Fisher: “We have to keep our heads up and be ready to play.”