Williamsport needed a win against rival Altoona to get back to .500 and bolster its chances of a District 2-4 Class AAAA playoff spot. Williamsport did just that and two seniors stepped up, fittingly on Senior Night.
Isaiah Washington finished his miraculous career at the Magic Dome with 23 points and nine rebounds and Tyler Gardner added 12 points, four rebounds and three steals as Williamsport beat Altoona, 59-46, Thursday night.
Gardner scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter to allow the Millionaires (10-10) to get out to a three-point lead. Altoona came out in a 2-3 zone on defense and Gardner found holes in the zone and his teammates found him for easy looks.
"I just created space with my man and I played hard," Gardner said. "I mean the guards did a good job of swinging the ball and getting inside and that helped me score those quick points in the first quarter."
With all the attention Washington and Maleak Benjamin drew on the perimeter, Gardner was working hard against a much bigger Altoona frontline that featured a 6-foot-6 center and a 6-4 forward. But that didn't deter Williamsport from looking inside as its bigs scored 20 points in the paint.
The Millionaires used some great off-ball movement on offense in the first half to build a seven-point halftime lead and continued it in the second as Williamsport had 13 assists on 25 made buckets.
"I think the guys are starting to develop some trust in each other and staring to understand the system a little bit better and know where guys are supposed to be at," Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. "With Maleak and Isaiah knocking down perimeter shots, it's really forcing that zone to stretch and making it easier for us to get the ball inside."
Williamsport had trouble on the defensive end with guard Jaret Berardinelli (20 points, 3 rebounds) and forward Manny Span (16 points, 8 rebounds) but held the rest of the Mountain?Lions to just 10 points. Williamsport forced Altoona to speed up the game as the Millionaires pressed Altoona and forced 17 turnovers.
All eight of Williamsport's seniors played and made an impact. Whether it was scoring, defense or rebounding, they all played a crucial part in the win. The senior class combined for 45 points, 24 rebounds and six assists.
"Every senior that stepped on the floor contributed in some shape or form," Taylor said. "I though that they came out and they finished their last senior game the way any Millionaire would want, with a W."
Jaret Berardinelli 8 1-2 20, Tony Acrie 2 1-2 5, Danny Kirwin 0 0-0 0, Jermaine Samuel 0 0-0 0, Manny Span 6 3-6 16, David Simmons 1 3-4 5, Jacob Port 0 0-2 0, Elijah Gage 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 8-16 46.
Isaiah Washington 10 2-3 23, Maleak Benjamin 2 4-5 8, Nyric Gosley 2 0-2 4, Tyler Gardner 5 2-5 12, Jed Chestnut 1 0-0 2, Shakurr Simmons 2 0-0 4, CJ Earle 0 0-0 0, Greg Johnson 0 0-0 0, Shadale Harman 3 0-0 6, Jamir Smith 0 0-0 0, Nick Manzitti 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 8-15 59.
Altoona 12 11 11 12- 46
Williamsport 15 15 12 17- 59
3-point goals: Altoona 4 (Berardinelli 3, Span); Williamsport 1 (Washington)
JV score: Williamsport 60-39. High scorer: Stanley Scott 18
Records: Williamsport (10-10); Altoona (7-8). Next game: Williamsport vs. Loyalsock at Lycoming College (Sat. 7:30)