Hilbert Hands Lions First AMCC Loss

Photo: Penn State Altoona senior guard Rich Bouknight tied for the team-high in points on Saturday with 16.
Photo: Penn State Altoona senior guard Rich Bouknight tied for the team-high in points on Saturday with 16.

HAMBURG, N.Y. - Penn State Altoona men's basketball suffered its first Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, when it was edged 74-71 by Hilbert College at the Hafner Recreation Center.

The Lions (4-3, 1-1 AMCC) overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half to take the lead, but they were unable to hold on to the lead in the closing minutes of the game to secure the victory.

"Tough loss today on the road against a quality opponent in Hilbert College. They were able to make some plays down the stretch and make some free throws to put the game on ice," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "However, I felt our guys continued to battle through a lot of adversity, whether it be some bad calls, missed layups, or unfortunate bounces of the ball, and we had an opportunity to win that game. But we just weren't able to do so."

The Lions' Rich Bouknight (Norristown, PA/Norristown) and Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins) tied for the team-high in scoring, totaling 16 points each. Bouknight added four rebounds, while Jackson grabbed five boards to go along with a game-high five steals.

Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) recorded his second double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and securing 10 rebounds while also finishing with a game-high four shot blocks. Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) added 10 points and three steals, and Tre' Brown (Winchester, VA/John Handley) tied for the game-high assists total with five.

"We got a good effort inside from Cam, who had the double-double and four blocks, and Rich also played a pretty solid game. Tre' finished with five assists and one turnover, as he continues to lead the AMCC in assist-to-turnover ratio, and he's doing a great job getting us into the offense," said McGreal. "The biggest thing for us today was just the inability to knock down open shots. We've got to get back in the gym and continue to work on our shooting. And even though we didn't take many free throws today, we have to take advantage of the opportunity when we do go to the line. We weren't able to do that in the second half when it mattered the most."

Hilbert (4-2, 2-0 AMCC) was led in scoring by Hunter Martineau and Masia Phillips, who each finished with 15 points. David Arlaud added 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, and Joseph Braniecki contributed 10 points. Jalen Smith, the AMCC's Preseason Player of the Year, was held in check by Penn State Altoona, as he scored just five points.

Midway through the first half, a layup and foul shot from Gardner-Nicholson helped Penn State Altoona grab a one-point lead. The three-point play put the Lions up 21-20 at 8:20. Just over one minute later, Gardner-Nicholson's jumper tied the score 23-23.

But Hilbert jumped on top and rode a lead into the half. Martineau made a layup, then knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Hawks ahead 27-23 by the 4:27 mark. Back-to-back scores by Arlaud gave Hilbert a seven-point lead, 32-25, and Braniecki's dunk with 14 seconds left in the half gave the home squad a 34-27 advantage.

Hilbert expanded its lead early in the second half. Foul shots from Braniecki and a layup from Arlaud put the Hawks up 38-29 at 14:41, and fastbreak buckets from Martineau and Nicholas Parucki expanded their lead to 10 points, 42-32, by 16:07.

But Penn State Altoona erased its deficit with a 13-2 run. Scores from Bouknight and Jackson started the rally, and the Lions turned back-to-back Hilbert turnovers into fastbreak layups the other way for Jackson and Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals), narrowing their deficit to 44-42 at 13:55. Bouknight's three-pointer at 13:28 put Penn State Altoona up by one, 45-44.

Gardner-Nicholson's three-point play at 10:50 gave the Lions a four-point lead, 52-48. Jackson connected from beyond the arc at 7:03 to break a tie and give Penn State Altoona a 59-56 advantage.

But Hilbert came up with several key plays to turn the game in their favor. Martineau's layup and foul shot at 6:42 tied the score at 59, and Phillips added a three-point play of his own at 5:50 to give the Hawks a 62-60 lead. A Parucki layup and two more Phillips free throws helped Hilbert to a four-point lead, 66-62, by the 5:09 mark.

After Jalen Archie-Davis' (Norcross, GA/Norcross) jumper at 2:56 tied the score 68-68, Hilbert used another basket-and-a-foul play from Phillips to jump ahead by three, 71-68. The Hawks held Penn State Altoona to just three points in the final 2:55 of the game, and Phillips added three more foul shots to keep the score differential at three.

Penn State Altoona excelled in the turnover battle, limiting its own total to 12 while forcing Hilbert into 24. The Lions held a 25-9 advantage in points off of turnovers.

Next up, the Lions return to Altoona for a three-game stretch of home games -- including a pair of AMCC matchups. Penn State Altoona returns to action this upcoming Wednesday, December 6 in the Adler Arena, hosting conference opponent Franciscan University for a 6:00 p.m. contest. Following that game, the Lions host AMCC foe Medaille College on Saturday, December 9 at 1:00 p.m.

"At the end of the day, it's just one game," said McGreal. "We're going to rebound and get ready for Franciscan and Medaille next week, and we'll continue to battle."