Jake Hoffman scores 30 again as Mt. Lebanon wins showdown with Pine-Richland

Friday, December 13, 2019 | 10:49 PM

Mt. Lebanon senior Jake Hoffman wears uniform No. 33.

He might consider changing it to No. 30.

The Blue Devils have played four games this season. Hoffman has scored exactly 30 points in each of them.

Hoffman’s fourth 30-spot in a row led all scorers and carried Mt. Lebanon to a 61-53 victory over Pine-Richland in a nonsection matchup of Class 6A WPIAL contenders Friday night.

“Call Guinness to see what they say about that,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joey David joked when told Hoffman had scored 30 points again. “He’s doing fantastic. I’m more proud of the way he played defense and how he stepped up and rebounded and hit some free throws at the end.”

“Hoffman did whatever he wanted,” Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann said. “It was a challenge. We did not do a good job defending him.”

Coming into the game, David was looking for a test. His team was 3-0, but the Blue Devils won those games by an average margin of victory of 36 points.

On Friday, the defending champions were tested and passed.

“They’re a good basketball team. They got a lot of talent,” David said of the Rams. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on both ends for both teams.”

A year ago, the two teams played early in the season and combined for 183 points as Pine-Richland won, 101-82.

The calendar said this game was played in mid-December, but the pace and the defense played by both teams delivered more of a late-February feel to the game.

“We’re nowhere near where we are going to be later in the year,” David said. “We are going to be a different team in February.

“We have a lot of guys that didn’t have a lot of varsity experience, and they had never been in a close game. This was our first close game, and I was proud of them.”

Mt. Lebanon jumped out to an 8-0 lead early before Pine-Richland settled in and started chipping away. By the end of the quarter, the Blue Devils’ lead was 16-11.

“We we’re very tentative, very hesitant early on,” Ackermann said. “We did not play aggressive.”

Rams senior Logan Murray was held scoreless in the opening quarter, but that quickly changed in the second quarter when he scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers, as Pine-Richland pulled to within three points at 30-27 at halftime.

Pine-Richland finally grabbed its first lead in the third quarter, but every time the Rams went on top, Mt. Lebanon seemed to have a quick answer.

The Blue Devils only scored three field goals in the fourth quarter, but they were 11 of 15 from the free throw line to hold off the Rams.

In addition to Hoffman’s 30, Blaine Gartley had 11 points for Mt. Lebanon.

The scoring was more balanced for Pine-Richland as Kyle Polce led the Rams with 17 points while Murray added 16 and Joey Petcash chipped in 11 points.

Pine-Richland dropped to 1-2 and will play another defending WPIAL champion on Saturday when the Rams travel to New Castle.

Mt. Lebanon visits Butler in another 6A nonsection showdown on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s district title game.

“I love playing really good teams because it exposes your weaknesses and makes you better,” David said.

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