HOMER CITY–In a game that was sometimes fundamentally and mentally disastrous, other times somewhat artistic, the deciding moments came when all the action stopped.
Penn Cambria’s George Klayko hit two free throws with 1:06 remaining. That put the Panthers up by seven points, and helped Penn Cambria beat Homer-Center 52-47 last Friday in the first round of the Luther Ford Homer-Center Tip-Off Tournament.
Homer-Center tied the game at 33, with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter. But Penn Cambria pulled away, due particularly to Homer-Center’s missed free throws-five misses out of the final nine.
“We got back into the game and tied it up, but in the fourth quarter we went back to playing like we played in the first quarter,” Homer-Center Coach Dan Antonacci said. “That was a problem last year, but it’s not going to be a problem this year. We’re going to somehow figure it out.”
Homer-Center trailed 29-19 at the half, but stormed back in the third quarter. Completing a 6-0 run, the Wildcats pulled within two, 33-31, at the end of the quarter, due to a putback by Aaron Heidenthal with time expiring.
This was a difference from the first half, where Penn Cambria forced 10 Homer-Center turnovers, six of which came in the first quarter.
“I didn’t know what we were doing in the first half, it was ridiculous,” Antonacci said. “In the first half, there was no focus, we just ran around doing our own thing. In the third quarter, we took it up a notch and held them to only four points.”
In the first quarter, the two teams exchanged five leads in the first five minutes, but Penn Cambria pulled away 9-7 at the end of the period.
Penn Cambria then began the second quarter on a 10-2 run that gave the Panthers a 10-point advantage and a 29-19 lead into the half.
Homer-Center forward Chris Sobota led all scorers with 19 points, and Nathan Morrow chipped in 12.
However, Homer-Center’s need of a ball-handing guard was quite evident.
“We need to find a guard that can handle the pressure, and teams are going to continue to press us until we can. It’s as simple as that,” Antonacci said. “We played a lot of guys tonight. Some of them played well at times, some of them did bad at times. We’ve got to step up and handle the pressure.”
In Saturday’s consolation round, Homer-Center squeaked out a 43-42 win over Punxsutawney, the champion of last year’s tournament.
The Wildcats took an early 2-0 lead at the top of the game. But they had fallen behind by seven points, 38-31, by the end of the third quarter.
Homer-Center’s defense got pumped up in the final period, forcing five turnovers and holding the visitors to only four points.
Morrow, who led the Wildcats with 13 points, brought home the win, scoring off a put-back with just a second left on the clock. Teammate Mike Walker contributed 10 points.
Morrow additionally was named to the all-tournament team, as was Punxsutawney’s Dennis Manges.
Kiski Area captured the tournament championship from Penn Cambria, 69-27
Ligonier 54, Homer-Center 43
Sobota was the game’s top scorer, with 18 points and 10 rebounds, when the Wildcats visited Ligonier Valley Tuesday in Heritage Conference action. Heidenthal added a dozen points for the Cats. But Homer-Center lost to the host team, 54-43.
The Wildcats will welcome Marion Center tonight.