When State College’s demolition of Altoona was complete, Little Lion senior Michael Caswell called it the most memorable night of his career.
Caswell scored a career-high 27 points to lead State College to a 76-45 victory that was decided by halftime Saturday night.
But Caswell’s individual performance wasn’t the only reason he’ll remember this blowout.
“It wasn’t just about me,” Caswell said. “Every single player on the team played well. It was just awesome. The team’s real fired up, and that’s making a statement to District 6 that we’re for real this year, like they better watch out.”
The Little Lions (6-6) scored 50 points in the first half, building a 27-point lead with a dominant second quarter. Caswell led the charge, scoring 17 of his points and knocking down four 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes. Drew Friberg added 13 points and Alex McCann chipped in with 12 for State College.
The Little Lions got open shots against Altoona’s 2-3 zone and fed off Mountain Lion turnovers for easy finishes in transition to break the game open in the second quarter.
State College used an 18-3 run and outscored Altoona (3-7) 30-10 in the second quarter. The Little Lions led 50-23 at the break.
“It’s probably the best we’ve played for four quarters for the season,” State College coach Joe Walker said. “Fifty (points) in the first half was a big surprise. We shot really, really well and the big thing was on offense in their zone, we gave up OK shots for great ones with an extra pass.”
Caswell benefited from the extra passes and made Altoona pay from beyond the arc.
He scored eight points in the first quarter. The guard fired from the top of the key off a kickout on the first possession of the second quarter.
The ball rattled above the rim, then dropped down for his third 3-pointer. That’s when Caswell realized it could be his night.
“I normally wouldn’t have made that,” Caswell said.
The Little Lions later started their decisive run with more than five minutes to play in the half.
State College’s Tyler Hall made the extra pass to Caswell for a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner before McCann came away with a steal and went coast-to-coast to push the Little Lions up 36-19. Altoona took a timeout with 2:35 left in the half.
The lead continued to grow as Caswell stole the inbounds pass and completed a three-point play out of the timeout. It ballooned to 50-23 when Cooper Gulley came off a double screen and canned a 3-pointer on the final play of the half.
“I think they just mentally broke,” Caswell said. “We started getting easy plays and it just fired us up that much more, and that’s when we really took control of the game because they quit mentally.”
Caswell paced the Little Lions with eight points in the third quarter. His baseline drive on the first play of the fourth quarter pushed his total to 27.
“For as hard as he works, he deserves it,” Walker said of Caswell. “He said to himself at halftime that he’s usually not that good a shooter, that he was finding (shots) in the zone. It was the extra passes. And when you have that much time to shoot and each make gives you a little bit more confidence and he went on a run there. He had some tough finishes too, really creative at the rim.”
The Little Lion starters checked out with 6:25 to play and a 70-34 lead.
It was a night in which everything went State College’s way against an overmatched Altoona team.
“We made our luck I guess you could say,” Walker said. “We did pressure on defense and that was our game plan going in and really tonight they played as a team. They weren’t concerned about themselves scoring. They found that they scored more because they made extra passes and it made it easier on everyone.”
Saturday’s matchup was a rematch of last year’s District 6 Class AAAA championship game won by Altoona.
And State College wanted to send a message.
“We’re ready and we really, really want to win that District 6 back,” Walker said. “They beat us last year, so they were excited for this game. It meant a lot to them.”