Penns Valley worked the ball around the perimeter in search of an opening against Huntingdon’s defense.
The Rams couldn’t solve the Bearcats’ 1-3-1 or 2-3 zones in the first half. They rarely attacked the gaps and passed up open shots.
Huntingdon coach Nick Payne expected Penns Valley to stay patient in its offense. Ram coach Terry Glunt described his team’s play as tentative.
“We were cautious,” Glunt said. “I don’t know if we let their size concern us. But I thought we had open looks that last week we were stroking and not afraid to take.”
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Penns Valley was doomed by its slow start in a 56-51 loss to Huntingdon on Wednesday night. Glunt said the Rams went 5 for 21 in the first half as the Bearcats built a 26-11 lead. Penns Valley (8-2) chipped away at the deficit and pulled within three points in the closing minutes, but its comeback fell short.
Huntingdon’s Nate Gearhart scored a game-high 24 points, while 6-foot-6 center Kobren Frederick added 21 points. The duo combined for all 30 points for the Bearcats (6-3) in the second half.
Logan Johnson paced Penns Valley with 20 points.
Johnson and Zach Engle accounted for all 11 of the Rams’ points in the first half.
Shot after shot clanked off the rim as the Bearcats jumped out to a 14-4 lead after the first quarter. Engle scored all four points, finishing two layups after pulling down offensive rebounds. Johnson scored his five second-quarter points in transition.
The lefty failed to connect from deep. Logan Pearce was cold from outside, and Chase Collison didn’t look for his shot early.
“It gave us a nice little cushion,” Payne said. “I’m glad they weren’t as hot as they were in the second half. They hit some of those 3s in the first half and it’s going to be a different game. They’re going to be up on us. Getting out to a fast start was definitely a benefit.”
Johnson hit Penns Valley’s first 3-pointer in the third quarter to break the cold spell. Collison followed with a 3 for his first field goal two possessions later. He didn’t hesitate to fire another 3 to pull the Rams within 12.
Johnson knocked down the team’s fourth 3-pointer of the period on the ensuing possession, and the Rams sliced the deficit to 34-25.
“We played with a lot more confidence in the second half,” Glunt said. “A couple guys passed up on some open looks in the first half that I thought they had. Chase, I said, ‘Did anyone ever tell you not to shoot? He has 12 in the second half, stroked it. I was really proud of him for stepping up like that.”
Collison connected from beyond the arc again, from the left corner, to bring Penns Valley within seven points early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers. Collison later found Engle for a layup, and hit Johnson along the baseline for another layup.
The Rams trailed by four points.
The comeback continued with another shot from deep after the Rams couldn’t get one to go down in the first half.
Johnson swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key with less than two minutes to play. Penns Valley trailed 48-45.
Frederick ensured the Rams wouldn’t get a chance to tie. The big man banked in a shot through Engle and knocked down a free throw to complete the three-point play.
“To me it looked like an awkward shot, him shooting, and it went in,” Payne said. “He’s a greatly improved player.”
Frederick’s play proved to be the end of Penns Valley’s comeback.
The Rams fought back in the second half and found their confidence against the zone — hitting eight 3s to fuel the comeback.
But it wasn’t enough.
“They all busted their butt and no one can hang their head after this game,” Glunt said. “We came back from a 15-point deficit, made it a great ballgame.”