HOLLIDAYSBURG — Although the scoreboard might have indicated otherwise at the final buzzer Thursday night, the Homer-Center boys’ basketball team is far from polished.
And if the Wildcats hope to make a deep run in the playoffs, they’ll have to sharpen things up.
Homer-Center bounced back from “one of the worst first halves” of its season to overwhelm an upstart Claysburg-Kimmel team in the second half and roll to a 72-48 win in the District 6 Class A quarterfinals at Hollidaysburg Junior High School.
But the 24-point drubbing didn’t exactly satisfy most Homer-Center players or coaches.
“We just have to polish things up,” Homer-Center coach Bob Rado said. “Hand it to Claysburg: They’re a scrappy bunch of guys that don’t really go that deep and they played a lot of minutes in this game tonight, and they hung in there with us, at least for a half. We’ve got to get better at our game. Against the Bishops (Carroll and Guilfoyle), who are (seeded) 1-2, we can’t play like this. … It’s another dimension to the game.”
“We figured that we’d come out playing with a lot of energy, but our first half was one of the worst first halves we’ve had all season so we were really disappointed in that,” senior Darren Carr said.
“And then in the second half, we came out and we actually played some basketball. That’s the way we should have been playing in the first half.”
The Wildcats did come out with a lot of energy, playing their frantic, up-tempo style on both ends of the floor, but it didn’t produce the desired results. They forced 20 first-half turnovers, but they couldn’t break the game open due to their offensive deficiencies.
Homer-Center committed 14 turnovers in the opening half, and the Wildcats settled for too many jump shots instead of attacking the basket, Rado said.
“We just basically wanted them to use up a lot of energy because we knew they weren’t real deep,” Rado said. “We knew they didn’t have a long bench, and our goal was just to go after them early. We created a lot of turnovers. Unfortunately, a lot of those turnovers didn’t result in some points for us, and they usually do. We were rusty in the first half.”
Homer-Center shot 34 percent (12 of 35) from the field in the first half.
“Our shots weren’t falling in the first half and that kind of affects how we play,” John Capitosti said. “In the third quarter we just picked it up a lot more. We intensified our defense. The first half was a little sloppy and we tried picking it up and going as hard as we could to try to extend the lead.”
With a 34-25 halftime lead in hand, the Wildcats opened the second half on a 12-0 run and never led by fewer than 17 points the rest of the way. They harassed the Bulldogs with their full-court press, leading to 10 more turnovers in the third quarter, when Homer-Center outscored Claysburg-Kimmel 25-9 to assume control.
“We had a couple teams that pressed us a little, but not possession for possession. It was definitely the most pressure we faced all year, by far,” Claysburg-Kimmel coach Josh Klausman said. “If we turn the ball over that many times against anybody, 100 games, we’re going to lose 100 times. We had somewhere in the high 30s in turnovers. We’re not going to beat anybody turning the ball over that many times. At the same time, they did an outstanding job of putting us in that position to turn the ball over. They’re definitely one of the quickest teams, if not the quickest team, we’ve faced all year. At times, we broke it and we got some good looks, but for every time we did that, four or five other times it was a wasted possession.”
And when Claysburg-Kimmel showed any signs of life in the second half, Homer-Center quickly extinguished the Bulldogs’ comeback hopes. After Claysburg-Kimmel scored five straight points to pull within 51-34 with 1:26 to play in the third, Homer-Center ended the quarter on an 8-0 spurt to stretch it back to a 25-point lead entering the final quarter.
Brothers Joe and John Capitosti scored 13 points apiece in the first half to keep Homer-Center afloat while the offense worked out the kinks. A sophomore, John Capitosti finished with a game-high 19 points, and senior Joe Capitosti had 16.
Then, Carr took control in the second half. He scored 13 of his 17 points in the third, with most of his baskets coming around the rim. That was just the aggressive style of play Rado wanted to see in the second half.
“We did a better job in the second half, especially rebounding, pushing the ball up the floor and attacking the basket, not settling for just perimeter shots like we did in the first half,” Rado said. “They knew they didn’t play as well as they could have played and they just upped the tempo in the second half to create our type of game. And they capitalized on turnovers in the second half, which they didn’t do in the first half.”
“Being rusty, we knew our shots weren’t going to fall, so we were just emphasizing defense and turnovers, forcing turnovers,” Carr said. “And we did a pretty good with that throughout the whole entire game, and then once our shots started falling, then we had it all going.”
Now they just need to put it together for two halves.
[PHOTO: John Capitosti pessed to his brother Joe Capitosti during the Wildcats' win Thursday. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette photo)]