CRESSON — After their dreams of a conference championship were shattered just over a week ago, members of the Penn Cambria basketball team made a pact they would not face again to this sorrow.
Using the previous loss to its advantage, Penn Cambria was able to overcome an early eight-point deficit on Tuesday against Central in the District 6 Class 4A title game.
The Panthers beat Central, 52-45, to claim the district crown.
“It’s just amazing,” said Penn Cambria senior Kyle Reese.
“It’s the kind of stuff you’ve been working for all these years. We’ve talked about it before, but we never really understood what it means until we got here. I love these guys i love this band and it all came together at the right time.
With the victory, Penn Cambria won its first district title since winning the Class AA crown in 2013.
“These guys have just come to terms with what it means to create their own legacy,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “We’re going to put this banner on the wall, and every time they walk into the gym, they’re going to look up and remember something special.”
With a buzzing atmosphere at Mount Aloysius College, Penn Cambria (21-5) got caught up in the moment and allowed an 8-0 run early in the game.
After Ronan called time out and readjusted his team, the Panthers quickly took off.
Reese scored eight of his 17 points in the first quarter and the Panthers took a four-point lead at halftime.
“We had a little slump, and it was something we’ve never really experienced before,” Reese said. “I don’t think we were as ready as we thought going into the game, and we needed a little reset there, but we were finally able to start.”
With the title on the line, the Dragons (19-6) brought the heat in the second half.
Tyrelle Rolle connected on a line of 3 and scored 17 points in the second half alone.
Central briefly held the lead at 28-27 midway through the third and had an answer for almost all of the Panthers’ counts.
“Our guys fought back, but (Penn Cambria) did too,” center coach Paul Frederick said.
“They were just a little bit faster on loose balls and rebounds than we were all night.
“Penn Cambria just tracked us pretty well.”
Penn Cambria was also powered by superstar junior forward Garrett Harrold, who scored 18 points and was a constant threat throughout the night.
“Central is really physical and tough, and we knew that from playing them twice this season,” said Harrold, whose Panthers shared the regular-season streak with Central.
“We knew it was going to take everything to be able to beat these guys.”
Penn Cambria qualifies for the PIAA playoffs and will face the fifth seed from District 7.
The program’s only playoff victory was in 2003, and Ronan said his team had another opportunity to cement its legacy.
“We want to be remembered as the best team ever to come out of Penn Cambria,” Ronan said.
“We won a district championship. If we can also win a state playoff game, that would put us at a level that no other team here has ever reached, so we’re looking forward to that opportunity.