McMURRAY – They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish – but that wasn’t really the case at Peters Township High School Saturday afternoon.
Early pressure and a handful of first-quarter turnovers proved to be the dagger in Central Cambria’s season, as the Red Devils fell to Seton LaSalle 75-67 in a PIAA Class AAA boys first-round game.
The District 7 runner-up Rebels started the game with a full-court press that caused four straight turnovers, and put Central Cambria in an 11-point hole early in the first quarter.
“All the film we watched on them, we didn’t really see them do that,” Central Cambria coach Adam Stephan said.
“We’ve been very good against the press the whole season. It was kind of like we were a little shellshocked by it.”
It was exactly what the Rebels wanted to do early, especially after having not seen game action in almost two weeks.
“Early on, we were able to execute the press well and we went after them with a lot of pressure. We knew they could shoot the ball well from 3. I think that took the edge off of us a little, not playing over the last week and a half,” said Seton coach Mark Walsh.
To break the press, the Red Devils resorted to something they’ve done well all season: shooting the 3-pointer. They had six triples in the first half and we’re able to pull within a point.
A 10-4 Seton LaSalle run in the final 2 minutes of the half gave the Rebels a 41-34 lead.
But Central Cambria wasn’t too worried.
“Respond to it. Do what we’ve been doing all year. Sometimes we get a little rattled, just thinking it’s a WPIAL team, we’re LHAC. That’s what it comes down to, just responding to whatever’s been thrown at us,” senior Matt Holsinger said.
That was what the Red Devils did, opening the half on a 7-2 run.
“It’s a four-quarter game,” Walsh said. “If you make a run on a team, they’re going to come back and make a run, especially with the success they’ve had this season. We knew they’d come back, especially with their big guy being able to step out and take 3s.”
But then the Rebels were able to respond, drawing a handful of fouls and turning up the defense, causing a few quick turnovers that resulted in fast-break points. They eventually jumped out to a 14-point lead, and never looked back.
The Red Devils finished the day with 10 3-pointers and 22 field goals in all. The were led by seniors Luke Bennett, who had 28 points, and Holsinger, who contributed another 22.
“I told my guys, I had like 12 tapes on these guys and they could shoot the ball. I think they proved that all along,” Walsh said after the game.
Central Cambria (14-12) says goodbye to five seniors, who have helped build this program into a winner. Before this group of seniors joined the program, the last winning season Central Cambria had was back in 2010-11.
“They’ve made the state tournament three out of the last four years. All the hard work that group of seniors put in over the last four years, they pass it down to the young kids. Hopefully they continue to work as hard as those five guys did and continue that in the future,” Stephan said.
Holsinger, who finished his four years with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, was emotional after the loss, saying: “That’s all she wrote, I guess. All good things come to an end.”