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Third-quarter collapse costly for Apollo-Ridge

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

A nightmarish third quarter proved to be the difference as the Apollo-Ridge Vikings dropped a 58-53 decision to Northern Cambria in a first-round PIAA Class AA boys basketball playoff game.

Apollo-Ridge, looking for its first state playoff win since 1988, led by as many as nine points in the second quarter before foul trouble and turnovers allowed the Colts to take control of the contest at Central Cambria High School.

The Vikings ended one of the most successful seasons in school history with an 18-9 record.

Northern Cambria (22-5) will play Conemaugh Township in second-round action Wednesday night at a site and time to be determined.

Apollo-Ridge dictated a fast pace of play in the first half, controlling the offensive boards and forcing 11 Colts turnovers.

The Vikings were in front, 28-19, on a basket by Conor Billingsley that followed a steal and a slam dunk by sophomore Tré Tipton with 2:26 left in the half.

“We were able to apply pressure early and get a nice little lead there,” said Vikings coach Matt Gourley.

But Northern Cambria scored the last five points of the half, including a 3-pointer by Adam Polites with 56.3 seconds to go in the second quarter. Polites, the Colts' leading scorer, was held scoreless up to that point.

Trouble loomed as Lucas Burrell, Apollo-Ridge's leading scorer, and guard Josh Reynolds were both on the bench with three personal fouls.

Apollo-Ridge committed 10 turnovers in the third period, and the Vikings had to slow the pace, which allowed Northern Cambria to get into its half-court game.

“We came out of the half and said we have to get back to doing what we do,” said Northern Cambria coach Dan Weber. “We held them to six points in the third quarter, and a lot of that was because of our defensive pressure. When the game started, I thought we were playing at their pace.”

“The style we were playing got us in foul trouble,” Gourley said. “We were trying to protect our guys with some subs in there. They did a fine job, but when you don't have your best players in there, things can get away from you a little bit.”

A technical foul called when an official didn't like the way A-R's Alex Smith returned the ball after an out-of-bounds ruling helped enable the Colts to build their lead to 43-34 by the end of the third period.

A steal and basket by Reynolds with 1:51 to go brought the Vikings to within 53-48, but Apollo-Ridge couldn't convert three late Colts turnovers.

Jeff Hogan had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead Northern Cambria.

Tipton finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots for the Vikings. Billingsley added 15 points.

“I'm really proud of our kids. It's been a historic run for our school,” Gourley said. “They held their heads up high in the locker room, and it's been a blast for everybody.”

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