YORK RUN — Laurel Highlands jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and held off a late charge by Albert Gallatin for a 70-61 victory in Section 1-AAAAA play on Tuesday in the Herald-Standard Game of the Week at Albert Gallatin High School.
The Mustangs improved to 4-2 in section play and 9-4 overall. LH is on a four-game winning streak and tied with McKeesport for second place in the section. Head coach Rick Hauger's team beat the Tigers, 65-58, on Dec. 13. They play at McKeesport on Friday at 7 p.m.
"I thought there was a lot of high energy in the place," Hauger said. "It was a good, team basketball game, and what you would expect.
"We were fortunate to get up a little bit early and they had to come back at us, and they did. While we did make some plays I would prefer that we didn't make, we made enough good ones to keep them at bay a little bit. Anytime you get a win on the road in a section that is as tough as ours, you want to take that."
The Colonials fall to 3-3 and 5-8. AG is tied with Gateway for fourth place in the section standings. Head coach Shea Fleenor's squad defeated the Gators, 45-44, this past Friday. Albert Gallatin is at Greensburg Salem (0-6, 2-11) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"We came out and put ourselves in a hole from the get-go in the first quarter," Fleenor said. "We made more than our share of mistakes. We have to be ready to start games. There was a lot riding on this game for both teams. Kudos to LH. I told the guys to not panic or fret. We are still in it."
Laurel Highlands jumped out to a 14-4 lead with 3:21 left in the first quarter after senior Keandre Cook scored on a layup. He started the game with a three-pointer.
Cook scored 16 points to share team-high honors with freshman Rodney Gallagher. He made five field goals (two 3-pointers) and was 4 of 4 at the foul line.
"When teams are focusing on Rodney, it gives me all the more opportunity to get open," Cook said. "You got me out there on the wing when everybody is on him, and today, my shot was just falling. I just do whatever I can to help my team. I love playing at Albert Gallatin. The intensity is crazy here."
"I am really happy and proud of Keandre," said Hauger. "He has been battling a back injury all year. There was a game or maybe two games he had to sit out because he was having a problem with it. There were a couple of games where he started, played a little bit and couldn't play any further. Keandre did a fine job."
Cook scored nine of his team's 20 points in the first quarter, as the Mustangs held a 20-12 lead heading into the second. The visitors had a 19-18 edge in the second for a 39-30 halftime advantage.
Gallagher only scored two points in the first half, and was held in check for most of the third quarter, but made two clutch baskets as he hit a step-back jumper and a 3-pointer as time expired in the period for a 55-42 lead. Gallagher made five field goals (1 three-pointer) and was 5 of 6 from the foul line. He made all of his free throws in the fourth quarter.
"Rod was Rod," said Hauger. "It's always nice to have someone like Rod when the moment doesn't get too big for them. I think he was pressing a little bit — he has family from out here — but when it came down to when we really needed him, he was there."
Gallagher connected on a jump shot for the opening score of the fourth quarter to give Laurel Highlands a 57-42 advantage before Nate English answered with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 57-45 with 6:26 remaining.
English, who scored 11 points on three 3-pointers and a two-point basket, fouled out three seconds later.
"It shortened our bench, more than anything, with Nate not being out there," Fleenor said. "Kudos to those guys on the floor. They battled for a long stretch there. I thought Hunter Sexton came in and gave us great minutes once Nate fouled out. We had to use a couple of our timeouts, made a little mini-run to force LH to use a timeout."
Despite not having their three-year starting point guard for most of the fourth quarter, the Colonials cut the deficit to 67-61 with :58.1 left on a basket by Dylan Shea for two his game-high 18 points, but the Mustangs sealed the deal with an emphatic finish, as Tyvaughn Long's dunk sent the Laurel Highlands faithful into a frenzy.
Long had 15 points on seven field goals, and was 1 of 2 at the line.
Shea made eight two-points baskets and was 2 of 5 at the line. Teammate Tyrese Jackson, who has battled injuries for most of the season, had 14 on four field goals, and was 6 of 10 at the line.
"Once again, Dylan has just been an animal inside," Fleenor said. "I keep telling people, 'I know what he's doing at 6-1.' I can't even imagine what he would do to people at 6-6. He would literally be unguardable. His heart is so big and he plays so hard.
"I thought Tyrese Jackson really came alive, especially in the second half. He is slowly coming around, and there have been flashes in each game. We need Tyrese and Dylan to keep coming up big for us."
AG's Dom Lewellen made four 3-pointers, and was 2 of 2 at the line for 14 points.
The Mustangs' Caleb Palumbo connected on three 3-pointers and two 2-point buckets for 13. Teammate Tim Smith had eight points on four field goals.
"Tyvaughn (Long) was strong on the boards, Timmy (Smith) had a big game and made some shots and Caleb (Palumbo) hit some threes for us when they were playing zone," Hauger said.