Central Mountain Boys Win Thriller Over Bellefonte in District 6 Class 5A Title Game | News, Sports, Jobs
There were only hours left before Monday night’s Class 5A District 6 title game kicked off when Central Mountain junior guard Jack Hanna was named to the Heartland Athletic Conference first team as a ‘star.
Later that night, Hanna proved why he was named one of the best players in the conference in the Wildcats’ hard-fought 53-52 win over Bellefonte at Bald Eagle Area.
Hanna took the sentence “Great players make great plays” and ran with it.
The Central Mountain point guard became a hero on Monday night as his team trailed by one point with two seconds remaining. That’s when Hanna headed for the foul line and connected on the two biggest shots of her career.
Hanna, who finished with just five points but had more impact than anyone on the floor when it mattered most, lined her feet up on the rim, took two hard dribbles with her right hand and drained the first pitch frank to equalize the game.
The rambling junior repeated the same streak on his second free throw to give Central Mountain its second district title after the buzzer beater failed all the field at Bellefonte.
Hanna’s unforgettable moment almost didn’t happen. After being fouled, he missed the first attempt. Luckily for Hanna — and her teammates, coaches, and loyal Wildcats in attendance — Bellefonte was called for a lane violation. It breathed new life into the Wildcat and Hanna took full advantage of it.
“They called the foul and I looked at the clock, I knew the next one was one and one. I was just trying to get my heart rate down a bit,” Hanna said as she felt her chest after the historic Central Mountain win. “I missed the first one and luckily there was a lane violation. At that point I felt calmer and OK. That’s what you work for.
According to Hanna, who was averaging almost 14 points heading into Monday’s game, he knew he was capable of doing great for his team.
“I never doubted, I believe in myself. These are just the times you work for,” Hanna said.
Central Mountain’s storybook victory Monday night at Bald Eagle Area High School was far from easy. The Wildcats had four points in the final 15 seconds to upset the Red Raiders.
Hanna’s moment was pivotal, crucial for the Wildcats, but it was all possible thanks to Ashton Probst’s ability to topple a great line. The game seemed over. Bellefonte, who came just short of their first-ever district title, trailed by four with 25 seconds left.
It was then that Probst found a place in the Raider defense and punched in a three-pointer. The senior finished with a team-high 18 points in the win. Probst’s trey-ball put the Wildcats in prime position for a comeback. Central Mountain then stole the ball, which led to Hanna’s foul line being visited.
As Hanna headed for the line, Probst stepped in and delivered a message to her teammate.
“I have 100% confidence in Jack (Hanna)”, said Probst. “He does that (free throw) 100 out of 100 times. I went up to him and said ‘It’s in the bag, don’t even worry about it.’
Probst was instrumental from the opening tip to the closing buzzer in Monday’s game. The Central Mountain big man followed up his 16-point semifinal game last week with another quality offensive performance.
“I think he just understands every game,” Wildcats coach Tyler Bardo said of Probst’s performance. “I know he hit the three in the corner, that was a shot he needed to take in that situation, I really think he’s looking for those attacking opportunities and that’s what you see.”
Bardo, who became the second Central Mountain coach to win a district title in more than 20 years of existence, was impressed with the way his team played out of the gate and even more so with the way his team closed it.
“I think we got off to a good start, we finished the quarters well. It was the most important thing. Even though Bellefonte got us (Central Mountain) in the third quarter, we did enough to make sure we held the lead. Obviously, at the end of the match, we just spoke to them during the break and said ‘You are made for this’, and they believed it. Bardo said.
The Wildcats led 19-18 after one quarter of play. The opening period success was the complete opposite result of these teams’ first meeting earlier this year and the Wildcats had just eight points in the first quarter.
After a tight first quarter, Central Mountain kept their footing in the second. The Wildcats then outscored the Raiders by three, thanks in part to a three from Hayden Pardoe.
Pardoe finished with three 3s and 13 points.
At the break, the Wildcats clung to a five-point lead. Despite the advantage, Central Mountain’s second-leading scorer (Hanna) was held scoreless.
Bardo and his team wanted to involve their playmaker in the second half but they weren’t going to force anything.
“We really wanted to involve him a bit. We knew if we could, we felt like maybe we could pull out because he’s one more guy they have to worry about and keep. We really wanted to move Jack (Hanna) forward a bit to take the pressure off the other guys a bit. He got the ones that mattered. Bardo said.
For most of the third quarter, the Wildcats held the lead. That was until Bellefonte fought back and equalized at 38.
The Wildcats did not panic or discourage. Instead, they found a way to get their point guard his first points of the game. Hanna’s corner three got her on the board and brought the Wildcat crowd to life. On the ensuing possession by Central Mountain, the Wildcats crowd erupted even louder when Probst threw a dunk into Bellefonte’s basket.
Bellefonte, who won the fourth quarter by two points, rode a strong run to start the final quarter of action. The Red Raiders led for the majority of the final three minutes but couldn’t hold off the Wildcats.
Central Mountain and Bardo’s emotional win came a year after they followed the district title game against Hollidaysburg in shocking fashion. From day one of this season, Bardo knew his team could get back to the title game.
“I said to these guys in the very first practice of the season ‘My goal, personally, was to see them come back in this game. We were going to let them decide, we were going to let them play basketball and they did. . Bardo said.
For Hanna, Bardo and the rest of the Central Mountain boys’ basketball program, it’s a victory they will cherish forever.
“It’s been my dream ever since I saw my uncle Trevor (Hanna) do it a few years ago,” Hanna said. “I’ve always dreamed of it.”
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (53)
Jack Hanna 1 2-2 5; Hayden Pardoe 4 2-2 13; Brett Gerlach 3 1-1 7; Cayde McCloskey 2 0-0 6; Ashton Probst 7 3-4 18; Essex Taylor 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 8-9 53.
Ty Kroell 5 0-0 13; Nicholas Road 1 0-1 2; Gannon Brungard 5 0-0 10; DJ McCaslin 2 1-2 7; Blair Eckley-Jones 5 7-9 18; Cole Crissman 0 2-2 2. Totals 18 10-14 52.
CM 19 12 11 10– 53
Bellefonte 18 9 13 12–52
3-point goals: CM 5 (Pardoe 3, Hanna 1, Probst 1), Bellefonte 5 (Kroell 3, McCaslin 1, Eckley-Jones 1).
Honors: CM (13-11), Bellefonte (19-5).