Second-seeded Huntingdon was in a zone on Wednesday night in its District 6 Class AAA semifinal matchup with No. 3 Greater Johnstown at Central Cambria High School.
The Bearcats (15-8) held the Trojans to single-digit scoring in the first three quarters and went on to defeat Johnstown 51-39, denying the Cambria County squad the opportunity to play for their sixth straight district crown.
“We set up the game plan over the last couple days and that was to switch up our 2-3 and our 1-3-1 up and then offensively we wanted to try to establish the inside presence,” said Huntingdon coach Nicholas Payne, whose team will play Somerset, a 64-51 winner over Carrick Wednesday, in the title tilt at Mount Aloysius College at 2 p.m. Saturday. “Johnstown’s perimeter shooting pretty much stayed cool all night.”
The Bearcats were able to work the ball inside to junior Kobren Frederick, who led all scorers with 16 points and also pulled down 19 rebounds.
“This is Kobren Frederick’s third year of organized ball and he’s come a long way,” Payne said. “He played above the rim and that’s what I told those guys.”
The long layoff led to a sloppy first quarter featured more rebounds than baskets, 23-6, with neither team able to capitalize on the other’s misses, but the Trojans held a slim 7-6 advantage.
“We struggled shooting the ball all year,” Johnstown coach Neil Cobaugh said. “As much as we work on it sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in. We got some good shots, but not the ones we wanted to get.”
In the second, there were three lead changes and two ties as the Bearcats took a 16-15 advantage at the half. The Trojans held an 8-2 edge on points from the bench in the first half.
“A low-scoring game, but that’s what you get when you run zones,” Payne said. “I thought we did a great job of containing Shaquan Reid and Jeremy Updyke, their two best players.
Huntingdon scored as many points in the third quarter as it had in the first two putting 16 points on the board and holding Johnstown to just 16 for a 32-21 lead heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, Huntingdon’s Nate Gearhart scored 11 of his 15 points, including 7 of 9 shooting from the free-throw line.
“There were a few nerves there in the fourth because none of our guys have ever been to a district playoff game before, but we were able to finish and that’s the important thing,” Payne said.
The Trojans (12-11) got a team-high nine points and eight rebounds from A.J. Fisher, who had all of his points in the fourth.
“We didn’t play well, bottom line,” Cobaugh said. “We didn’t listen to instructions. We played with no energy and no heart. Certain games we do things the way we are supposed to and certain games we don’t. They didn’t come out and do anything that we didn’t expect. We just didn’t execute what we were supposed to do.”
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/CoryIsenbergTD.