Kittanning still unbeaten after rolling past Apollo-Ridge

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 11:46 p.m.

The anticipated showdown between undefeated Kittanning and Apollo-Ridge on Wednesday night never materialized.

A stellar Kittanning defensive effort allowed the Wildcats to grab an early lead and roll to a convincing 73-47 victory at Lt. Charles Hutchinson Gym.

Junior guard Alex Schaffer led five Kittanning players in double figures with 18 points for the Wildcats (6-0).

Sterling Henry contributed 14 points and 10 steals, and Kevin Barnes had 10 points and nine assists.

The Wildcats finished near their margin of victory average of 25.2 points.

“We came out and did a little something different tonight,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “We used two guards to create pressure and try to slow them down a little bit. We figured if we could get out there and slow them down a little bit, we could hold them to one shot, get the rebound and go.”

The strategy worked to perfection. A 3-pointer by Sterling Henry was followed by a basket off a steal on an inbounds pass by Schaffer. That gave the Wildcats five points in 5 seconds and a 27-4 lead with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter.

“We turned the ball over too many times,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “We were undisciplined; we didn't get into the right spots, and the final score was the result.”

It didn't help that the Vikings played without sophomore standout Tre' Tipton, who sprained an ankle after landing on a player at practice. Tipton said he hopes to be back in time for the Apollo Trust Tournament next week.

“We were a little bit out of our ordinary sets, but that's no excuse,” Gourley said. “Kittanning has a nice team, and we succumbed to their pressure.”

The Vikings rallied somewhat in the second period, cutting the Kittanning advantage to 38-27 just before the half on a pair of 3-pointers by Evan Davis.

The Wildcats, however, held Apollo-Ridge (5-1) to just four points and forced eight Vikings turnovers in the third period.

Kittanning was coming off a victory in a buzzer-beater against Knoch, 68-67, in a Section 1-AAA game Tuesday.

“You always worry about how much energy they have left and where their focus is,” Bill Henry said. “They've done this so often, playing two days in a row and twice in a day during the summertime. They're an experienced group of kids.”

One bright spot for Apollo-Ridge was Davis, who tallied 14 points with four 3-pointers.

Kittanning held Apollo-Ridge's leading scorer, Lucas Burrell, to two points in the first three quarters before the senior guard made two 3-pointers late in the game.

Both teams return to section play Friday. Kittanning hosts Valley, and Apollo-Ridge will visit Section 1-AA rival West Shamokin.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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