Penns Valley’s Logan Pearce waited years for this opportunity.
Pearce is settling into his new role running the Rams’ offense as one of four first-year starters.
The junior guard keyed his team’s attack in his second game Tuesday night, knocking down jumpers, scoring on drives and setting up 6-foot-6 center Zach Engle to lead Penns Valley past Bald Eagle Area 65-62.
“Varsity basketball is the big cheese, I’d say,” Pearce said. “Varsity basketball, I’ve always been dreaming about it — eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade and finally, I get my shot as a junior and I’m just really glad.”
Pearce scored a game-high 23 points, and Engle finished with 21 for the Rams. The inside-out duo combined to score 28 of the team’s 35 points in the second half as Penns Valley (2-0) withstood a late rally by Bald Eagle Area (0-2). Ram coach Terry Glunt said his team is still searching for its identity with one returning starter in Engle.
“It’s weird looking up and seeing this new cast of characters in front of me trying to play the same brand of basketball that we’ve been playing,” Glunt said. “I don’t think our defense is where it has been, but we’re going to keep working on that. Offensively, I like what we’re doing.”
Penns Valley trailed BEA 48-46 going into the fourth quarter, but the Rams appeared to seize control after starting the final period on a 14-2 run.
Pearce and Engle combined to score 12 of the team’s points during the stretch.
Pearce drove down the middle of the lane for an easy finish before Engle completed a three-point play to push Penns Valley ahead 53-48. Pearce then finished a three-point play after a BEA turnover and found Engle for a layup on the ensuing possession.
Pearce then drilled a jumper to give Penns Valley a 60-50 lead with less than five minutes to play.
“We knew he could score,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said of Pearce. “I didn’t expect him to start out the night he had shooting. He shot pretty well jump shots. And I didn’t expect him to (have) that good a jump shot. From what I saw, he’s more of a slasher, but tonight he showed me he has a jump shot out there too.”
Engle surprised Butterworth by going 5 for 5 from the foul line.
“Last year, we played the old ‘Hack-a-Shaq’ with him,” Butterworth said. “Credit him, he did really well tonight.”
BEA stormed back to set up a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds.
The Eagles forced back-to-back turnovers that led to layups to cut the deficit to 60-57 with 2:29 to go. They later pulled within one with less than two minutes to play.
After Noah Chambers missed a 3-pointer, Brandon Gettig grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a 3-point attempt by A.J. Onder.
Onder buried the three, and BEA trailed 61-60.
Penns Valley hit three free throws to take a four-point lead before Gettig finished a drive to make it 64-62 with 58.7 seconds left.
That remained the score when the Eagles took a timeout with possession with 8.7 seconds left. Gettig got an open look from deep in the right corner, but he missed off the front rim.
“We thought it was in,” Butterworth said. “We run that play every day in practice. We actually had him pop instead of curl on that, and he got a wide-open look and I thought it was money.”
Gettig finished with 18 points to pace BEA.
Penns Valley survived, but the Rams are still figuring out what style of play works best with a new core of players.
Said Pearce: “It’s a coming out party for a lot of us.”