High School Sports

High school boys’ basketball: State College confident opening PIAA Class AAAA playoffs with Harrisburg

State College’s Alex McCann, center, and the Little Lions will look to top Harrisburg in their PIAA Class AAAA first round game on Saturday at Bald Eagle Area High School at 2:30 p.m.
State College’s Alex McCann, center, and the Little Lions will look to top Harrisburg in their PIAA Class AAAA first round game on Saturday at Bald Eagle Area High School at 2:30 p.m. CDT file photo

State College knows what to expect in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament.

Pressure defense.

Harrisburg used a full-court press to set the tone in a 70-47 victory in its first Mid Penn Conference matchup with the Little Lions. The Cougars turned to a half-court trap to come back from a double-digit third-quarter deficit in a 52-51 win over State College in their second meeting.

State College (13-10) is looking to avoid the same mistakes in its third game against Harrisburg (20-8) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bald Eagle Area High School.

“They’re always good at looking: Is the ball handler’s head down that he turned away from us? Is the cutter not looking so can I leave?” State College coach Joe Walker said of Harrisburg. “So they’re very good at knowing when to trap, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be planned, I don’t think for them. But they like to pressure and make the game, speed it up a little bit and use their athletes in the open court.”

State College edged Altoona 58-57 to win the District 6 title last Thursday.

Alex McCann and Drew Friberg each scored 12 points and Tyler Hall and Tyler Snyder each had 11 in a balanced scoring effort that’s become typical for the Little Lions.

“I think our guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” Walker said. “We’ve been playing a lot of zone lately and they’re learning those spots as we continue to play it and learn how to play it more efficiently.”

Harrisburg finished fifth in the District 3 tournament, beating McCaskey 60-48 and Northeastern 58-57 after losing to eventual runner-up Cedar Crest in the quarterfinals.

Jahaad Proctor, a 6-foot-3 senior guard who is headed to Holy Cross, averages 23.8 points per game for Harrisburg.

He became the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer this season and boasts a handful of impressive scoring outbursts this year.

Proctor dropped 42 points against Central Dauphin East, poured in 40 against Central Dauphin and notched 40 against Carlisle. He’s scored 20 or more points in 19 of Harrisburg’s 28 games.

“He gets his points really efficiently because he’s so good at every spot on the floor,” Walker said. “He’s a very good shooter. He can step out. You have to pick him up within 30 feet of the hoop. He’s very good off the dribble, he can shoot off the dribble. He’s a good passer.”

He scored 20 and 17, respectively, against State College this season.

Walker said Proctor hurt State College’s zone playing the post in the second half of the Cougars’ comeback 52-51 win.

“I think the team’s confidence goes with how he’s playing,” Walker said, “so that’s kind of what our hope is to limit his opportunities.”

State College held a 14-point lead late in the third quarter before falling apart in the one-point loss.

Walker said his team has learned from those mistakes against the pressure heading into its third matchup with Harrisburg.

“We believe we can win,” Walker said. “And that’s usually the biggest part — if you can convince yourself or convince your team, convince your players that they’re good enough to win, that’s really a large part of the battle. And right now, our guys do feel that way.”

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