ALTOONA — Penns Valley faced an uphill battle heading into halftime.
Penns Valley settled for jumper after jumper as it struggled to establish an inside game against the taller Richland team. And Richland point guard Kyle Flick constantly pushed the tempo, finding open teammates and finishing on his own in a transition game Penns Valley couldn’t keep up with.
Richland’s stingy defense and fast-paced offense built a 13-point lead over Penns Valley at the half. And though fourth-seeded Penns Valley battled Richland in the third quarter, the same combination in the fourth capped a lopsided 58-29 loss to the top seed in the District 6 Class AA semifinals on Wednesday night at Altoona Fieldhouse.
“When we got out after them late in the second quarter, start of the third, it got us back into the game, so I was pleased with that,” Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt said. “But once the air gets let out of the balloon, it gets away from you and you hope and you wish, but I thought they were the better team tonight and they showed it.”
Penns Valley (19-5) now faces Bald Eagle Area, which lost 53-52 to Central, in the consolation game Friday night. The teams shared the Mountain League title and split their regular-season games. Both teams have also already clinched spots in the state tournament.
“I want them to finish on a high note,” Glunt said. “I want them to be successful, they’ve been successful so far. They are league champs. They’re in the state tournament for only the fifth time in school history so that’s something to smile about. But obviously tonight, nobody’s smiling.”
Richland (19-5) took control from the start.
Flick, who finished with a game-high 19 points, stole a pass on the first possession and took it in for the layup. The guard drew and foul in the process and hit the free throw. He later found Ryan Ball, who beat Penns Valley down the court, for an easy layup in transition. And Flick finished another breakaway layup to put his team up 7-0.
Penns Valley needed more than three minutes to get on the board, breaking its first drought with a 3-pointer by Dalton Ulmanic. A 3 by Will Jackson, who finished with a team-high 10 points, late in the quarter pulled Penns Valley within 11-6.
But Penns Valley never found its rhythm offensively, failing to find many openings and depending on 3-pointers as a result.
“We settled for some quick early shots that were outside of what we wanted to take,” Glunt said. “We want to get the ball inside and have winning shot chart. Shooting 3-pointers for us, we’re not the greatest 3-point shooting team. That probably wasn’t a wise thing for us to do.”
And while the offense was stagnant, the Penns Valley defense couldn’t slow Richland’s inside-out attack.
Flick finished with 12 points in the first half. And Matt Shaffer proved tough to handle in the paint. He scored 15 points, including eight in the first half, and piled up offensive rebounds to power Richland’s half-court offense.
“They have many weapons,” Glunt said. “They had the bigs that could finish inside. They had an incredible transition game, which got us early. I thought they beat us on the boards, too. Those were the things, the focuses we had coming in, we have to not give up second-chance opportunities, we got to stop their transition and we have to pressure their guards a little bit.”
Penns Valley finally did that at the start of the second half, using a trapping pressure defense to nine points with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Jacob Lushko and a breakaway layup by Flick pushed the lead to 14 in the closing minute. A 3 by Jackson at the buzzer cut the deficit to 37-26 heading to the fourth.
But Penns Valley went scoreless until 2:01 remained in regulation, and Richland turned it into a rout. Penns Valley was outscored 21-3 in the fourth quarter, with its points coming on a free throw by Logan Johnson and layup by Ben Alexander.
“They blew us out and that doesn’t usually happen to us,” Glunt said. “But that’s why you really have to give them credit.”