Through its first three games of the season, the Cambridge Springs boys basketball team looked unstoppable and had clearly established itself as one of the top Class AA teams in District 10.
The Blue Devils were 3-0 and equipped with two of the early season’s most exciting players — Matt and Marcus Palmero, who entering Friday’s game against Cochranton averaged a combined 43 points per game.
Not if you’re a Cochranton Cardinal.
The Cardinals shot over 50 percent from the field and held the Palmero brothers to a total of just eight points on their way to a dominating 78-46 win over the Devils at the Bird Cage.
Cochranton improved to 2-2 overall with the win. Cambridge Springs fell to 3-1.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Cochranton coach Mel Dainty said. “(The Blue Devils) were undefeated coming in and they were playing pretty well. And we’ve played some really good teams.
“I didn’t know how fragile we were going to be mentally.”
Early on, the Cardinals did look a bit wary. In fact, Cochranton managed to score just two points through the opening three-and-a-half minutes. Cambridge Springs, meanwhile, was knocking everything down. Rather, Gavin Hohn was knocking everything down.
Hohn was 3-for-3 during that span with a 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils a 9-2 lead with 4:26 to play in the first quarter. The sophomore finished the quarter 4-for-4 from the field with two 3-pointers for a total of 12 points.
But midway through the second quarter, everything changed. And it all started with a fast break layup by Nick Dickson following a steal. Dickson was fouled on the shot and made the free throw to put the Cardinals up 21-20. They never trailed from there.
“We lost our composure,” Cambridge Springs coach Kevin Kurt said. “You have to give Cochranton credit. Their defensive intensity was there. We just didn’t match it. We matched it for the first half, but in the second half, through the first three minutes, they completely took charge.”
The Cardinals shot better than 65 percent from the field in the second half. They opened the half with a 20-3 run to take a 55-33 lead with 2:32 to play in the third quarter. Tyler Kenny scored 11 of Cochranton’s points with three 3-pointers.
But perhaps even more impressive than Cochranton’s offensive effort was its work on defense. The Blue Devils entered the contest averaging over 60 points per outing with all but 52 of its 181 total points coming from the Palmeros.
Matt Palmero was averaging 24 points per game and was coming off back-to-back 26-point outings. Marcus Palmero was averaging 19 points per game and had three straight double-doubles to his credit.
Matt Palmero scored his only basket on a layup early in the first quarter. He picked up his fourth foul with 2:58 to play in the third quarter and was sent to the bench for good with his fifth — a technical — with 6:19 to play in the contest.
Marcus Palmero scored four of his six points in the second quarter. And Josh Oertly and Nick Dickson did their job to keep him off the boards, holding him to just four — all in the first half. Oertly and Dickson combined for 21 rebounds.
“A lot of our offense runs through Matt,” Kurt said. “(Logan) Herzberger did a great job defending Matt and got Matt frustrated. And then we didn’t handle it very well.
“And Marcus kind of disappeared for us. Nothing against him. They did a nice job taking him away from it. Our backside usually is open. But they did a great job rotating on the backside. It just didn’t happen.”
Three players scored in double figures for the Cardinals, led by Oertly’s 25-point, 13-rebound double-double. Kenny and Herzberger combined for six 3-pointers and finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Dickson had nine points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
“We passed the ball really well and got a lot more assists than we normally do,” Oertly said. “We were working really hard. We wanted this win.”
Hohn finished with 18 points for the Blue Devils. Geoff VanWinkle had eight.