KNOCKED OUT: Wildcats knocked out of the conference tournament by Loyalsock, 52-44

Kyle Everhart (3) of Central Mountain High School tries to get around the Loyalsock High School defense. The Wildcats lost the first round of the conference tournament to the Lancers, 52-44. (For The Express/Tim Weight)

SHIKELLAMY – Central Mountain’s offensive funk continued as they were eliminated in the first round of the conference playoffs by the Loyalsock Lancers, 52-44.

Following the defeat, the Wildcats’ record dip to 15-8 on the season.

“I thought we fought in the second half and that we put up a good fight,” Central Mountain head coach Scott Baker said. “But overall, obviously we didn’t play very well. We’re real disappointed.”

Central Mountain began the game in a 14-0 drought, and were nearly held scoreless in the first quarter until Justin Neff converted a tip-in with just 40-seconds remaining in the opening period. The Wildcats ended the quarter trailing 14-2, and after the game head coach Scott Baker detailed how demoralizing it was to begin the game so sluggish-and commented on how difficult it is for any team to climb out of a hole like that.

“You’re coming in with high expectations and you get punched like that in the gut early and all night long you’re falling from behind,” Baker said.

“We talked to the guys early on about playing inside-out basketball and to not shoot threes,” Baker added. ” But we came out and Loyalsock went into a two-three-zone, which surprised us a little bit, and instead of moving the basketball we decided to start shooting right away and we got ourselves in a hole there.”

The Wildcats fared better in the second quarter, as they were only out-scored 15-11 by the Lancers in the period. Matt Storeman kept his team alive as he scored eight of his ten-points, but the Wildcats still continued to struggle with the Lancers’ significant height advantage. Loyalsock used its range and length to out-box CM in the paint, and even went into halftime with a lopsided 20-5 advantage in rebounds.

After the game, Scott Baker voiced his displeasure with his team’s inability to attack the glass and poor rebounding, something he notes wasn’t a problem in his squad’s 73-55 victory over Loyalsock earlier in the season.

“It’s difficult, but in the first game we had no problem rebounding ,” Baker said. “It’s more of the fact we didn’t play attention to details and we didn’t box-out. Loyalsock routinely got two, three and sometimes four possessions per trip. You can’t do that against a good basketball team. You can box bigger guys out if you go body-to-body, and we didn’t do that.”

Brody Baker and Kyle Everhart each boasted a team-high 11 points, and had strong third quarters as the Wildcats remained competitive and attempted to launch a comeback. Brody Baker drilled a three early in the quarter, and Everhart knocked down three triples in the period. CM outscored Loyalsock 17-12 in the period, but still went into the fourth quarter trailing 41-30.

“We knocked down a few shots as the game rolled along, but when you get off to such a slow start it’s going to be tough to have any type of momentum,” Baker said. “You’re out of your normal rotations and you’re out of everything.”

CM crawled back into the game late into the fourth after Brody Baker hit a clutch three to cut Central Mountain’s deficit to 47-39 with four minutes remaining. But Loyalsock’s’ Michael LaPoint responded with a layup to give the Lancers a 10-point edge. Loyalsock held onto its lead as they escaped with a 52-44 win in the first round of the conference playoffs.

Central Mountain’ 44 points were its second-lowest total of the season, and it comes just a day after the Wildcats had its lowest point-total of the season against Altoona on Wednesday- which was 40 points. The sluggish offense has caused Baker to declare his team is in a offensive slump.

“Unfortunately we’re in a offensive funk right now,” Baker said after the defeat. “The first group didn’t play very well on offense Wednesday night, and we didn’t play real well on offense tonight. We’ve got to get practicing and start really working on something offensively.”

Central Mountain will look to rediscover it groove on Monday when they host the Bellefonte Red Raiders in a win-or-go-home-game as both teams battle in the first round of the class 5A district six playoffs.

Loyalsock 14 15 12 11-52

Central Mtn 2 11 17 14- 44

Player Scoring

Central Mountain- Brody Baker- 11 points, Kyle Everhart-11 points, Matt Storeman- 10 points, Wyatt Bumbarger- 6 points, Justin Neff- 6 points Loyalsock- Marcus Williams-12 points, Gerald Ross- 11 points Mike LaPoint- 10 points, Andrew Malone- 8 points, Mitchell Klingerman-5 points, Hunter Webb- 3 points, Andrew Muggleton- 2 points, Anothony Pastore- 1 point