By Pete Chiodo
In the weekly PennLive Boys Basketball rankings, the Cochranton boys have spent the 2013-14 season relegated to a section titled “Others to watch.”
Apparently the Cardinals would prefer to have all eyes on them, as they knocked off their third “Others to watch” opponent of the season, taking care of defending District 10 Class A champion Kennedy Catholic 51-30 on Tuesday at the Birdcage.
According to Cardinals assistant Mark Roche, it was likely Cochranton’s first victory over Kennedy since the 1960s.
“In my career I’m 0-5 against them,” said Cardinals senior Nick Dickson. “It feels good to actually get a win against them. ... It’s definitely a confidence boost. Because now we know going into District 10 (playoffs) that we can win. We know we can beat teams. They’re going to be preparing. But we’re going to be preparing also down the stretch. We might have beat them, but in the playoffs everyone’s got a clean slate. We’ve just got to keep working and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The win comes on the heels of Friday’s 52-45 win over Erie First Christian, which effectively bounced the Eagles out of the “Others to watch” column. The Cards also defeated current Class AA “Others to watch” team Fairview 70-63 back on Dec. 13.
“Back-to-back playoff-type games with Erie First and Kennedy,” said Cochranton head coach Scott McCurdy, whose team improved to 11-2 with last night’s victory. “This was a test to see where we are at. Are we as good as we think we are? Could we hang with the big Erie First? Could we hang with the tradition of Kennedy? We could more than hang with them, we can beat them.
“It’s a long road between now and when it really counts. And we’ve got to keep improving until we get there, because both of those teams are going to keep getting better and better. And we can’t turn our back on these other Class A teams either. ... I feel like we’re kind of coming into our stride. Friday and (Tuesday) proved that. But we’ve got to do everything we can to keep this from being a peak. We have to keep climbing and climbing. The journey didn’t end (Tuesday).”
The win also proved to be a satisfying bit of redemption for Cochranton, which was defeated by Kennedy Catholic 58-37 in last season’s District 10 Class A championship. It was in that game that Dickson, the Cardinals’ leading scorer, suffered a knee injury that kept him off the court for months.
Last night, Dickson showed just how well he has recuperated. Along with a team-best 10 boards, he lit it up for 12 points in the first half, popping in 5-of-7 field goals. That helped get the Cardinals off to a 9-4 lead after one quarter and a 23-15 lead at the half.
“This was a redemption game for Nick,” said McCurdy. “We’re very proud of his comeback, psychologically, physically, everything. He busted his butt to get ready for his senior year. Going into this I could tell he was ready. He wanted to make a statement. And, boy, did he early in the game.”
As Kennedy’s defense started to focus on Dickson in the second half, he eased back and his teammates went to work.
In a third dominated by the Redbirds, Josh Vanderhoof started the with back-to-back jumpers out of the short corner that gave Cochranton its first double-digit lead at 27-16. He would finish the frame with six points and led Cochranton with 13 on the night.
Logan Herzberger then added a trey to make it 30-16. He had seven points in the third and 10 for the game.
Nate Wigton added five points in the third and finished the tilt with eight markers and seven rebounds.
Cochranton went into the fourth with a commanding 42-24 lead.
Vanderhoof and Garrett Adams would collect at the foul line in the fourth to maintain that lead. Adams ended up with seven points and nine rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” said McCurdy. “We’re not a one-man show, we’re not a two-man show.”
Yet, as impressive as Cochranton’s multi-faceted offense was last night, it was the defense that stole the show.
“We played lock-down ‘D’,” said McCurdy.
“All the credit in the world to (Cochranton),” said Kennedy Catholic head coach Rick Mancino. “They forced us to do everything wrong. They completely dominated the game. We did not do one good thing. I thought we were prepared for them. But we weren’t. They are a better basketball team than us right now. They coach better than us. They out-hustled us on the floor.”
Kennedy shot just 11-for-48 for the game (22.9 percent) and was just 2-for-21 from 3-point range (9.5 percent).
“We knew they were a 3-point shooting team,” said Dickson. “We looked to pressure them outside and force them to go inside because we’ve got size over them. ... They had 15 at the half, which was fantastic.”