Jackson Ritchey

Huntingdon’s Jackson Ritchey gets a dunk after a steal to start the fourth quarter of Friday’s season finale against Bald Eagle Area. The Bearcats pulled away in the fourth quarter to win a 75-51 verdict and finish the regular season with a 22-0 record.

With a lot of things going on, the Huntingdon basketball team seemed a bit distracted through the first three quarters of Friday’s Mountain League contest with visiting Bald Eagle. Still, the Bearcats led 54-45 after three quarters, then blitzed the Eagles 21-6 in the fourth for a 75-51 blowout win.

The Bearcats finished unbeaten at 22-0 in the regular season. That hasn’t happened since 1945. the victory was also the 1,400th in the history of the program. Huntingdon teams own a 1,400-936 record in 104 seasons. They were 14-0 in winning the Mountain League title.

Bald Eagle ended its season on a five game losing streak. The finished 6-16 overall and 2-12 in league play.

The game started with Huntingdon’s Chad Brindle converting a tradition three-point play and Nick Rigby getting a layup for a 5-0 lead. A field goal and free throw by Nick Gearhart with 3:10 left pushed the Huntingdon advantage to 13-7. Bald Eagle outscored Huntingdon 8-5 the rest of the quarter to trail by just 18-15 at the buzzer.

In the second quarter, the pattern was similar in that Huntingdon opened up a six-point lead (29-23) but a pair of buckets by Nate Hoover closed the gap to 29-27. The difference was that Huntingdon finished on a 6-0 run to lead 35-27 at the break.

“We were just standing around too much and not attacking the basket,” said Bearcat coach Nick Payne. “Once we started to penetrate, we got some dump passes for points.”

Jaden Jones caught fire for the Eagles in the fourth quarter. He scored 13 points in the first five and one-half minutes to bring Bald Eagle back within a point (41-40). Huntingdon answered answered with three-points by Andrew Miller and Brindle, and a layup by Jackson Ritchey to open the lead to 49-40. Each team scored five over the final two minutes of the period.

The Bearcats seemed to have had enough and opened the fourth quarter with an 18-0 run to take command with a 72-45 lead with only 2:32 left. Ritchey sparked the run with seven points and Rigby added four. Huntingdon took a 75-47 lead on a free throw by Rigby, then the Eagles got buckets by Nick Maynard and Nate Hoover to end the game.

“I don’t know what happened in the fourth quarter,” said Payne. “We started to play with more energy and defensive intensity. We got up in Bald Eagle’s grill and forced turnovers. We started to attack the basket and played the way we can.”

Rigby finished the night with 22 points. Jackson added 19 and Gearhart contributed 14. The Bearcats made 29 of 55 shots (53 percent) and owned a 30-25 advantage on the boards.

Jones led all scores with 23 points for the Eagles. Hoover added 11 and Andrew Bucha nine. BEA made 22 of 56 from the field (39 percent) and was guilty of 18 turnovers.

“I knew we had a good team coming into the season, but with the tough games we added to the schedule and the tradition strength of the Mountain League, I never thought we go undefeated,” Payne concluded. “We played some very good teams and never backed down.”

In the junior varsity contest, Tony Poorman scored 18 and Darin Harman 14 to lead the Bearcats (13-6) to a 59-43 season-ending win.

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