Trailing by five points heading into the fourth quarter, the Bald Eagle Area boys’ basketball team turned up its defense.
Jason Jones also got warmed up.
The junior forward scored eight straight points during a 10-0 Eagle run that put them in the lead for good in a 56-42 victory over rival Penns Valley in a District 6 Class AA consolation game Friday night.
“Always good to beat Penns Valley — that was probably the most important part of the night,” said Jones, who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. “They’re probably our biggest rival, bigger than Bellefonte. Great win, huge win.”
The teams, which shared the Mountain League’s regular-season title with Tyrone, certainly showed no ill effects of losing in the district semifinals two days earlier.
“It was an intense game,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said. “You would have never thought it was a consolation game. You don’t get a trophy for it or anything. Both teams were playing their butts off out there. That’s a rivalry at its best.”
Both teams also get to continue on to the state tournament, though both face an incredibly tall order, awaiting the outcome of the District 7 championship game set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburgh, with Seton LaSalle (24-1) meeting Greensburg Central Catholic (22-2). The Rams will draw the winner, while the Eagles face the loser. Both PIAA first-round games will be played March 8 in the Pittsburgh area.
Brandon Gettig added 13 points for BEA (20-5), with Bryan Greene contributing 12 points and five steals, Jeff Bennett picking up four steals and Ryan Dyke adding three steals.
Will Jackson’s 20 points paced Penns Valley (19-6), followed by 10 points each for Zach Engle and Luke Weaver, with seven and six rebounds, respectively, for Weaver and Engle.
The Rams had the lead at the end of the third quarter when Engle hit a layup and Jackson buried a pair of free throws after a technical foul was called on BEA.
The Eagles seemed to be inspired coming out of the break into the fourth quarter.
Greene drove the baseline for a layup and drew a foul, although he missed the free throw, before it was time for Jones to catch fire.
First, he drilled a 3-pointer, then drove the lane for a layup with a foul for a 3-point play, then swiped the ball and turned it into another layup for a 38-33 lead.
“Just being aggressive,” Jones said. “Early in the game I think I was sitting back. Just had to be aggressive because it wasn’t working early in the game.”
The junior had just six points at halftime, but also had grabbed eight rebounds.
“Jason stepped up huge,” Gettig said. “He was working his butt off in the first half and he needed to get rewarded for it. It was nice that he was able to have success.”
“He needs to get off to a good start,” Butterworth said. “When he does, it makes a difference in our team. He rebounds well for his size and he shoots well for his size.”
A 3-point play for Engle, on a layup and free throw, stopped the bleeding briefly, but BEA kept turning more Penns Valley turnovers into points. A Green steal became a Gettig layup, Trey Butterworth had a layup and Dyke also tossed in a bucket for an eight-point margin.
“That’s what we’ve been capable of all season,” Gettig said. “We just sometimes need a little motivation.”
The Rams turned the ball over seven times in the quarter and 19 times in the game, with 15 on Eagle steals.
“When they got the lead, that fed into their attacking offense,” Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt said. “We were able to contain them early.”
In all, the Eagles made 11 of 14 shots in the fourth quarter from the field, and other than Jones’ 3-pointer, all the buckets came from within five feet of the basket.
“They’re a whale of a team,” Glunt said. “They’re very athletic, quick, good shooters – they’ve got the whole package.”
Both teams will see their seasons last at least another week, with each returning to the PIAA tournament, and the Eagles will have a few days to savor how it turned up the heat in the fourth quarter on their rivals.
“I think it’s awesome,” Jones said. “We get to play in the state playoffs two years in a row. I think it’s awesome. I’m ready to go. I’m fired up.”