The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 1, 2014

Eagles eyeing district championship

Shawn Curtis

JOHNSTOWN — A District 6 boys basketball title still eludes the Somerset Golden Eagles.

Not that the Golden Eagles have been without their chances.

In each of the last two seasons, Somerset has reached the District 6 Class AAA final only to fall to LHAC rival Greater Johnstown.

The opponent in today’s District 6-AAA title game is different. The venue has changed too.

This afternoon, the Golden Eagles (15-8) tip off against Huntingdon (15-8) at Mount Aloysius College with the same mission in mind: Bringing home a District 6 championship trophy and moving on to the PIAA tournament.

“I think we’ve been to the (championship game) four times in the last six years,” Somerset coach Scott Close said. “It’s nice to be there. Every time you get there, there’s always some phrase ... Worry about beating a Johnstown team three times in a year. There’s always something. You try to tell the guys: ‘Hey, just play our game. Go out and play our best and hopefully that’ll be good enough.’ ”

Somerset boasts three players averaging over 10 points per game with Jake Heiple’s 16.3 points setting the pace. Dylan Barnes (15.7) and Connor Zarefoss (10.1) follow Heiple’s lead atop the scoring list.

Given the Golden Eagles’ penchant to hoist 3-pointers – they’ve attempted 422 as a team – it’s no surprise that the same trio tops that category with Heiple hitting 36 of 90 attempts, Zarefoss connecting on 36 of 94 tries and Barnes going 30 of 102 behind the arc. Michael VanLenten ­– 6.5 points per game – has hit 27 of his 86 tries from behind the arc.

That isn’t all that the Somerset offense is though.

“We like to take the open outside shot if it’s there,” Close said. “If not, we will take a layup. Our thing is that we love layups, but we like 3s too. We either want a layup or we want a 3. If you’re going to take a 17-foot shot, might as well step 2 feet back and get an extra point for it.”

Stopping the Bearcats will involve containing Nate Gearhart and his 20.4 points-per-game average. While Huntingdon isn’t as prolific as Somerset in attempting 3-pointers, Gearhart is shooting at a 39-percent clip from distance, knocking down 52 of 133 tries.

Devon Claar’s 13.1 points per game and 10.1 more from Korben Frederick follow Gearhart’s scoring lead.

Gearhart’s 10 boards per game also leads Huntingdon.

The Golden Eagles eliminated District 8’s Carrick 64-51 in Wednesday’s semifinal at Central Cambria. The Bearcats dropped Greater Johnstown 51-39 in their 6-AAA contest, also at Central Cambria.

Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at