The Shade Panthers shot the ball often during Saturday’s championship of the 36th Mountain Cat Tournament at Pitt-Johnstown.
Wade Fyock’s team just couldn’t get those attempts to fall – shooting 29.2 percent from the floor and just 33 percent from the free-throw line – during Blairsville’s 55-37 win over the Panthers.
While Shade (5-1) was having issues finishing off looks with baskets, the Bobcats (4-0) steadily built a double-digit lead in the first half and never let the Panthers get within 15 points the rest of the way.
“Our objective every game is to try to get out and run the floor,” Blairsville coach Mark DeMarines said. “Pressure the basketball full court and use our athleticism to our advantage. (Shade) slowed it down a bit and got us out of our gameplan, but they went man-to-man and as soon as they did, I knew we’d be fine.”
A large part of that revolved around the Bobcats’ ability to increase their inside looks while the Panthers tried to reply with an unsuccessful barrage of 3-point attempts.
“At halftime, we went up 16 points and I said: ‘If you want to break this team, you got to go to our strength and that’s Troy (Williams),’ ” DeMarines said. “The guys started finding him.”
Tournament MVP Troy Williams tallied 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in what is believed to be the first meeting between the regional powers.
“It was good (to beat Shade),” Williams said. “It let us know that we can play with the better teams in the league this year. We’re excited for this year.”
For the Panthers, the rare regular-season loss carried the theme that Fyock says has hovered over the team during the early part of the season.
“We have not shot well from the foul line,” Fyock said. “(Saturday) we shot 4 of 12. That’s not typical of what Shade basketball is all about. We’re generally one of the better foul-shooting teams in the area. Defensively, I liked our effort, we just couldn’t get things going offensively.”
Corey Mains’ bucket with 3:33 left in the marked the last time that the Panthers held the lead. A turnover created by Blairsville’s Rahdezz Henderson led to a Colton McMillan basket and an 8-7 Bobcats lead. Williams put back his own miss on the Bobcats’ next trip before Shade’s Matt Holland replied with a short-range shot of his own.
Blairsville bridged the first and second with a 9-0 run, capping it with Cameron Livingston’s 3-pointer. Jeremy Pyles, who scored 16 to lead Shade, rattled in the Panthers’ only field goal of the second quarter by answering Livingston’s 3-pointer with one of his own.
Livingston hit another 3-pointer to ignite a 9-0 run that ended when McMillan stole the ball from Nash Walker and drove for a lay-up late in the second.
Blairsville grew its lead as large as 27 points in the third quarter, creating that margin on Williams’ bucket with 3:05 left in the period to make it 41-14.
“We were stuck on 14 for quite some time,” Fyock said. “We’ll have to figure out some things offensively. I like my team, we’ve had six games in eight days. So 5-1 at the end of that stretch, can’t be too displeased about that.”
Pyles, Walker and Mains each hit shots to carve into the Bobcats’ lead. Five more points from Pyles made it 43-25 after the third.
Neither team seized momentum during the fourth, trading mini runs until the clock wound down.
Livingston and McMillan were named to the all-tournament team along with Shade’s Pyles and Walker. Central Cambria’s Tanner Ambrisco was also named to the all-tournament team.
The consolation game between Central Cambria and Forbes Road was not played due to inclement weather.
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.