Bellefonte takes Central Mountain the distance, falls late in D6 title game
Feb 25, 2023

By Kenny Varner

CRESSON – The rematch.

Last season, the Central Mountain Wildcats boys basketball team  narrowly defeated Bellefonte 53-52.

Both team returned to play round two, as they renewed acquaintances once again for the District 6 Class 5A championship.

The contest would be just as nail biting.

But the results would be same as it would take another last minute run by the Wildcats to gut out a 59-56 thrill ride en route to claiming the title.

Like two boxers in a title fight, both took teams took their opponents best punch and continued to move forward.

“When you’re playing a team for the third time this year and they had time to prepare and everything else. They gave us one heck of a game. We anticipated that. Rick (Hall) does a wonderful job with them (Bellefonte),” said Central Mountain coach Tyler Bardo. “We just came up with a couple of clutch plays at the end on both sides of the floor.”

Central Mountain got off to a very strong start, taking their game right to the heart of the Bellefonte defense.

Essex Taylor went right inside on the Wildcats first possession. On the next Bellefonte possession, Central Mountain’s defense forced a turnover and then got the ball back inside the paint, this time giving the ball to Levi Schlesinger for the strong inside bucket.

Defensively, the Wildcats held on consecutive trips down court, allowing Hayden Pardoe to hit two consecutive buckets to up the lead to 8-0. Pardoe finished with a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds in the win.

Rounding out the 10-0 run was Jack Hanna as he too drove the lane, with 5:40 still showing on the first quarter clock.

Bellefonte would break onto the scoreboard when Derek Cox would step back behind the 3-point line and hit a triple, cutting it to a 10-3 lead.

However, the Wildcats continued to attack the hoop, picking up four more points to increase the lead to 14-3.

Offensively, Bellefonte got the ball to Cole Crissman. Crissman, who finished with a dominating game-high 23 points, was fouled going to the hoop. He hit 1-of-2 from the line for his first point of the game.

Hanna would get one more runner in the lane before the end of the quarter, upping the Central Mountain lead to 16-4.

But it would be Bellefonte’s Jacob Corman that would score the last point of the first, hitting 1-of-2 from the charity stripe.

After taking everything that the Wildcats could throw at them, it would be the Red Raiders turn to reverse their fortunes.

“That’s been our mojo all year long. I just told them that that was a hell of a comeback,” said Bellefonte coach Rick Hall. “I’ve been doing this over 40 years coaching different sports and this has got to be one of the unluckiest teams I’ve ever seen. A ball bounces the wrong way. That’s what’s been happening to us all year long. We just have my got the breaks. That’s what we needed. But for a team that beat us by 20 the first time and 12 the second, we had a shot. That’s been the mojo of our kids all year long. I’m very proud of them. They fight to the end and they play hard for me.”

As soon as the second got underway, Bellefonte went right to work.

Crissman hit 2-of-2 from the line to get the stanza off and running.

The Red Raiders defense tightened up the middle, forcing the Wildcats to push the ball outside and work it around the 3-point circle.

Minutes later, Bellefonte got the ball after a miss by Central Mountain.

Again, Crissman aggressively took the ball to the hole and was fouled while trying to hit a lay in. He was successful with both shots, cutting the deficit to 16-9.

But Central Mountain rallied back with a small 4-0 run, upping the lead to beyond double digits.

But the Bellefonte air attack was about to take over.

In three consecutive trips down court, Bellefonte got triples by Crissman, Alex Ebeling and Cox.

The Red Raiders were now within striking distance, trailing only 22-18.

A shot by Jacob McConnell cut it to just two points with 1:48 left in the half.

Hunter Hoy’s scoop under lay in gave the Wildcats a 24-20 halftime lead.

The aerial slugfest would continue going into the third.

Crissman opened the half with another strong move to the bucket, closing things to two points.

Bellefonte’s defense stood up and forced a turnover. McConnell hit a jumper to tie the game for the first time at 7:15.

Another turnover put the Red Raiders in the lead for the first time as Crissman again found his way to the line, hitting 1-of-2.

The Bellefonte fans went wild as the defense once again and they got the ball to Crissman in transition leading to a dunk, upping it to a 27-24 lead. But Central Mountain rallied back once again as the two went toe-to-toe for the rest of the third. The Wildcats took back the lead 37-36 thanks to a late triple by Hanna.

Going into the final stanza, both teams found themselves tied at 51 with 2:10 left.

The Wildcats defense forced the Red Raiders to some late turnovers as they went on a 8-5 run to take the contest.

But the Red Raiders had one last highlight when Crissman popped a buzzer beating triple, ending the score at 59-56.

Editors note: Bellefonte made school history for making the District 6 post season two years in a row. They also have not had consecutive winning seasons back-to-back in over 20 years.

Central Mountain 59, Bellefonte 56

BE      5 15 14 20 – 56

CM   16  8 13 22 – 59

Scoring: CM – Levi Schlesinger 2 0-0 4, Jack Hanna 7 3-6 18, Essex Taylor 5 0-1 10, Hunter Hoy 3 4-5 10, Hayden Pardoe 6 3-4 14, Dominic Longworth 1 0-0 3. Totals 24 10-16 59. Bellefonte – Ryder Hamilton 1 0-0 3, Luke Fisher 1 0-0 2, Derek Cox 3 2-2 11, Alex Ebeling 1 0-0 3, Jacob McConnell 2 0-0 4, Ethan Tomasacci 1 0-0 3, Davis Corman 1 0-0 2, Cole Crissman 5 6-8 23, Jacob Corman 0 1-2 3. Totals 13 9-12 56.

Played but didn’t score: CM –  Xavier Persun 0 0-0 0. Bellefonte – None.

Three-point shots: CM –  Hanna, Pardoe, Longworth. Bellefonte –  Hamilton, Cox 2, Crissman 3, Ebeling, Tomasacci.

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