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Big Shots No. 15

'Special' delivery

March 2, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
This is the sixth in a 20-day series on the biggest shots in Blair County high school basketball over the last 50 years. The Mirror is counting down one per day until Sunday, March 16.

—Buck Frank

Player: Miriam Heidler, Altoona

Opponent: Norwin

Date: Saturday, March 15, 1980

Site: IUP Memorial Field House

Setting the scene: Altoona, with a starting lineup of four juniors and one sophomore, faced a 28-2 Norwin team in the PIAA Class AAA Western quarterfinals.

The shot: Trailing 60-58 with 20 seconds remaining, Heidler inbounded the ball to Judy McNellis, who passed to leading-scorer Lisa Fubio, left of the key. Heidler worked off a screen and received the pass from Fubio, scored and was fouled. After she converted the free throw with 12 seconds remaining and Norwin missed two final attempts, the Lady Lions prevailed, 61-60.

Mirror excerpt from Monday, March 17, 1980: To the Altoona fan, the game with “everything’’ ended on a spine-tingling note. — Neil Rudel

(To view the entire original article of this game, go to


—Heidler: “All week long, prior to the game, Pittsburgh papers were unkind to the Lady Lions, calling us the ‘farm girls’ from Altoona and hinted that the game was going to be a romp.’’

—Art Taneyhill, coach: “Norwin had used a zone defense the whole game, but when we were taking the ball out of bounds, they were in a man-to-man. I yelled out, ‘special.’ This was a play we put in in the summertime, practiced all year but had never used it in a game. I had told the girls this play would someday win us a big game, and the play worked.’’

—Heidler: “Norwin called a timeout to let me think about the ensuing foul shot. Art was kneeling in front of us with the look of utter resolve on his face. Poised, he just kept pointing his finger at each one of us and repeated, ‘After Miriam makes this shot, we’re all getting back on defense into our zone.’ I fed off his confidence.’’

Aftermath: Altoona lost to Shaler, 39-36, in the Western semifinals, but the win over Norwin could be considered as the starting point of the booming era of girls basketball in Blair County in the 1980s and ’90s. Heidler, now Miriam Colledge, is an English teacher at Roosevelt Junior High. She and her husband, Mike, have three sons.

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