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Brumbaugh’s legacy cherished at Claysburg-Kimmel

March 29, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
LORETTO — Jill Brumbaugh will always be seared into the memory of Hollidaysburg girls basketball coach Joe Hurd.

With good reason. Even by the standards of an area in which her sport was becoming extraordinary, Brumbaugh was still an extraordinary talent.

‘‘This is no lie. We played Claysburg one of the first years that I coached. It was a fairly close game. Jill Brumbaugh, with about five and a half minutes left in the game and them up one,’’ Hurd said with a pause, ‘‘dribbled out the clock.’’

Such is the legend of Jill Brumbaugh.

Brumbaugh, who was for about 10 years the all-time leading scorer in Blair County girls hoops history but now calls Northport, Fla., her home, was back in the area Friday night to serve as an honorary captain in the third annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic at St. Francis University’s DeGol Arena.

In 1984, Brumbaugh played in the inaugural game of the Big John Riley Classic, the direct predecessor to the current game.

Making the occasion all the more special for Brumbaugh was that her niece, Monica Iachini, was on the Blair County girls team.

‘‘I was here for Monica,’’ Brumbaugh said. ‘‘I was asked to do it last year, and, if it weren’t for Monica, I would have done it because of Lacey [Claar] and Marissa [Leslie].’’

Of course, Iachini never saw her aunt play in C-K blue and gold, so it’s unsure whether she can truly appreciate what Brumbaugh meant for girls basketball not just in Blair County, but in all of District 6.

‘‘I’ve heard a lot of stories about her, especially from people in Claysburg,’’ Iachini said. ‘‘It’s pretty cool.’’

One of the people who tells those stories is current Lady Bulldogs coach Tom Ritchey. He was Brumbaugh’s Sunday School teacher when she was growing up and continued to follow her through a standout career at UConn.

Ritchey remembers a player who had 1,594 points and probably would have scored well over 2,000 — the 3-point shot didn’t exist when she was consistently draining 20-plus footers. And, while Brumbaugh couldn’t recollect that first Riley Game, Ritchey could.

‘‘She amazed a lot of people in that game,’’ Ritchey said. ‘‘They were amazed at how well she passed, at how well she could handle the ball. She represented Claysburg real well.’’

Although she lives two hours and 40 minutes from Pittsburgh by jet, Brumbaugh does make it back home quite a bit. She did get to use this opportunity, though, to catch up with some relatives she hadn’t seen in awhile and talk to a few old foes, like Blair County honorary coach and former Bellwood-Antis girls mentor, Terri Harpster.

Still, you can tell the little town in the southern corner of the county is very dear to her.

‘‘When I went to a lot of their [Iachini, Claar and Leslie’s] games, it was the same people in the stands. They were just older. And the people I played with, they were fans in the stands,’’ Brumbaugh said. ‘‘Claysburg fans are true fans of the game, and they support the girls throughout. When we were good, they packed the stands.’’

Brumbaugh had some words of encouragement for Iachini before the game.

‘‘She said, ‘You guys are better than the other team,’’’ Iachini revealed. ‘‘Apparently not.’’

The Central PA stars rolled to a 90-56 win over Blair County, something unheard of in the days of the Riley Classic. The game, though, has changed: More girls are playing now with more skills, working to refine their skills, either for the love of the sport or in an effort to get a college scholarship.

‘‘There’s more talent now,’’ Brumbaugh, who played competitively up until about the year 2000, said. ‘‘Basketball’s bigger now, and they start playing younger.’’

Part of that is due directly to Brumbaugh and to others like her. She’d often volunteer to work Hurd’s instructional camps.

‘‘She had a tremendous impact,’’ Hurd said. ‘‘She’s the best example you could show on how to be a good player.

‘‘She was just an incredible player. She and Lori McConnell were just so far ahead of everybody else.’’

‘‘We’ve got to get her into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame,’’ Ritchey added.

The Riley and Mirror Classics have been a celebration of area basketball. It was only appropriate that Brumbaugh, who gained and gave so much through the game, was a part of the festivities Friday.

‘‘I think it’s great,’’ Brumbaugh said. ‘‘I think that it gives young girls a chance to focus their energies in a good direction. It keeps people out of trouble, and the friends you make last a lifetime.’’

Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or pcmor@altoonamirror.com.
 
 

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