CUMBERLAND — City championships never come easily.
Neither do wins in rematches against an opponent that was overwhelmed in the first meeting.
Allegany coach Tedd Eirich knows both to be true. And if his top-ranked Campers didn’t know it, they found out Friday night at second-ranked Fort Hill.
In the end, but not until the very end, after scoring the final nine points, the Campers exhaled a bit and celebrated another City championship — their seventh in 11 years — with a 76-63 victory.
Trenton Eirich scored 28 points and had four assists and four rebounds, point guard Mario D’Atri was 9 of 12 from the field and had 19 points, six assists and eight rebounds, and Darquel Jessie added 11 points and seven rebounds for Allegany (11-1, 3-0 City, 7-0 Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference). Bryce Nightengale added nine points.
Tyler Michael and Austin Christ combined for 34 points and 22 rebounds for Fort Hill (8-4, 1-2, 4-3). Michael matched a season high with 22 points and also had 11 rebounds and four assists. Christ scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, K’Shaun Powell had nine points and four steals, and Sidney Carroll nine points.
Just two weeks ago, Allegany scored 106 points and beat Fort Hill by 59 — both all-time series records. But on Friday the Campers found themselves in a dogfight the whole way. They trailed 14-13 after one quarter and 31-30 at halftime, and were up by only six, 67-61, with 2:15 go to before closing the game on a 9-2 spurt.
“Anybody thinking this game would be like the last one is a fool,’’ said Allegany coach Eirich. “I was nervous about it. I knew (Fort Hill) would come out fast and play hard and they did.
“We were not mentally prepared, and in the first half we did not play good defense or box out, or do any of the things that make us a good team. On offense, it was the opposite of our game at BW. We were selfish, and didn’t run our offense.”
Allegany led 23-17 midway through the second quarter but the Sentinels roared back, with Powell scoring six points in the final three minutes to lead a 14-7 surge that put Fort Hill up by a point at the half.
“I think a lot of people thought this would be a another blowout. But all our guys played hard. The effort was there,’’ Fort Hill coach Thad Burner said.
“We did better on the boards, and we knew we had to. The difference was the free-throw line. They got there and we didn’t. The few times we did get there, we can’t make the shots.”
Allegany was 16 of 25 from the line and Fort Hill 3 of 10.
After a second quarter that featured six lead changes, the Campers took the lead for good at 34-33 and scored the first nine points of the second half on a D’Atri baseline drive, a bucket by Trenton Eirich on a D’Atri assist, a fastbreak that started with a D’Atri steal and ended with a Nightengale bucket, followed by a Nightengale three-pointer that made it 39-33 after just two minutes.
Seven straight straight points by Eirich pushed the margin to double figures, 50-39, for the first time with 1:30 left in the quarter. A D’Atri jumper kept it at 11, 54-43, entering the fourth.
The Sentinels got to within six several times in the final quarter — 63-57 after two foul shots by Dalton Gaus with 4:03 to go; 65-59 after a steal and bucket by Powell with three minutes left; and 67-61 after a Michael jumper at the 2:15 mark. But they got no closer.
Two big reasons the Campers were able to hold off the Sentinels in the fourth were Eirich, who was 8 for 10 from the line and had 10 points, and Darick Kerns, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who played most of the second half after Nightengale had been charged with a technical foul.
Kerns had four points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.
“Darick played good defense, did what he needed to do and was a real stabilizing force in the middle for us,’’ said Eirich. “We showed a little character in the second half. As a team, we played better defense, got to the basket better and got what we needed to get done in the second half.”
The Campers scored 46 points after halftime.
“All year long we felt Fort Hill would be the team to beat. The first game was a mirage, sort of the perfect storm that came together. I knew it wouldn’t be anything like that tonight. It’s nice to be City champions, but that’s at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of what we’d like to accomplish this year.”
The Sentinels played Clear Spring Saturday afternoon.
“Tyler and Austin were huge for us. All of our guys responded. They’re resilient,’’ said Burner. “It’s just a few little things keeping us from where we want to be. We missed a few shots in the first half when we could have extended a two-point lead to six or so, and in the second half we got it down to six several times, but just couldn’t make a shot when we needed to in order to get any closer.
“We just have to keep improving, and continue to work hard and hopefully things will go our way.”
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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