LORETTO - About the only thing the Hollidaysburg Area Lady Tigers didn't successfully execute Thursday night was their attempt to carry Deanna Jubeck off the court, never quite managing to hoist their first-year coach upon their shoulders.
It was easy to forgive. They must have been tired after bearing the burden of 20 years of district championship frustration until that moment.
Three players, led by Alex Gildea with 24 points and Hannah Gildea with 19, scored in double figures as Hollidaysburg led from start to finish in an 85-58 victory over Lewistown in the District 6 Class AAA high school girls basketball championship game at St. Francis University's DeGol Arena.
Deanna Jubeck discusses Hollidaysburg's title
It only was the third district championship in Lady Tigers' history and the first since 1991.
"It means a lot,'' Hannah Gildea said. "The last two years, it was in our hands, and we let it slip through. This is awesome for our team and for our town.''
Hannah Gildea, who got the Lady Tigers started on the right foot with two 3-pointers and nine points in the opening quarter, is one of just two senior starters for Hollidaysburg along with point guard Elle Collins. Now 18, it was two years before they were born when the Pam Webber/Krissy Heinbaugh-powered team won the Hollidaysburg girls last district title in 6-AAAA.
Since then, a lot of talented players, like Amanda Ottaway, Lauren Lingenfelter, Vickie Mikesic and the late Lynnette Williams, had been thwarted in their attempts to duplicate that feat. It was a lot for Collins, a three-year starter who scored seven and handed out four assists in the district final.
"Honestly, I can't put it into words. I'm in awe right now. We're so excited,'' Collins said with unrestrained enthusiasm. "We've been working so hard. Before the game, we got in the huddle and we all said, 'This is the game. This is what we've been working for.'
"We did it. We achieved it. We worked together. We're so excited. I'm so excited.''
Jubeck, who helped put a couple of Northeast Conference championship banners in the rafters as a player at St. Francis, got a big hug immediately afterwards from her father, Bernie; he accomplished a similar task with the Hollidaysburg boys in 1989 when he guided them to their first district championship in 58 years.
"It means a lot to the kids. It means a lot to the program,'' Deanna Jubeck said. "The kids have been working hard since we got hired at the end of last year. The kids have put in the time. ... They played their hearts out tonight.''
It showed, as the top-seeded Lady Tigers, who'd fallen in the District 6 Class AAAA final each of the past two years, came out strong and left no doubt. Collins assisted on a Hannah Gildea basket 43 seconds into the contest, and, after Clarissa Adams' baseline jumper tied it up, Hannah Mercer scored off a steal and Hannah Gildea assist, and Collins swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
When Hannah Gildea was fouled on a made 3-pointer, and Alex Gildea nailed a baseline jumper to end the quarter, Hollidaysburg was ahead, 20-10. Lewistown never got the deficit back under 10.
"We had to keep the game close. We started off the game in a 3-2 zone. We haven't used that all year,'' Lewistown coach Kevin Kodish said. "We needed to limit them to one shot and we needed to stop the fast breaks. We didn't do either. You can't put yourself in a hole like that against a good team.
"They outperformed us,'' Kodish added. "They're fundamentally sound, they work the ball well, and there's no flat tires out there, no wobblers.''
In the second quarter, Hollidaysburg began to pound the ball inside to 5-foot-11 sophomore Morgan Griffith, who went 4-for-4 from the field for nine of her 11 points.
"We just wanted to get the ball into the post,'' Hannah Gildea said. "We wanted to get them out of that zone because we like playing against man to man. Then we worked the ball inside-out.''
With Hannah Gildea hitting from the outside and Griffith establishing her presence, Alex Gildea took advantage to score 12 points - more than her season average - in the last 4:35 of the half, as Hollidaysburg's lead expanded to 22.
"She went nuts. She's really, really, really stepped up,'' Collins said of Alex Gildea, who also scored above her average with 11 points in the Lady Tigers' 6-AAA semifinal win over Tyrone. "We're a team made up of five, six, seven really good players. We can rely on anyone.''
It was more of the same in the third, as the Gildeas combined for 14 points while Lewistown scored 13.
"We didn't want to underestimate them. We were confident, but we weren't overconfident,'' Hannah Gildea said.
The top seed entering the tournament, Hollidaysburg improved to 20-4, the same record as Lewistown. The Lady Tigers, who split four games against 6-AAAA finalists Altoona and State College, retained a Class AAAA schedule although they dropped in enrollment to Class AAA this season, but Collins said winning it all at the smaller classification wasn't any less sweet. In fact, she took issue with anyone who thought it diminished what they accomplished.
"We've been getting crap about that all year, but our schedule is tough. Lewistown came in with a better record than we did, but we were played the New Castles, the Altoonas, the State Colleges. We were playing really good teams,'' Collins said. "If people want to say we didn't work hard to get here, that's a joke. We were playing some of the best teams in Pennsylvania.''
Hollidaysburg will open the PIAA tournament next weekend somewhere in District 6 against the winner of a play-in game between the fifth-place team from the WPIAL and the District 9 runner-up. Kodish, who coached two PIAA champion teams in the 1990s and has won eight District 6 titles, is a believer in the Lady Tigers.
"If they play at that level all the time,'' Kodish said, "they're going to be tough to beat.''
Game notes: Logan Snyder and Ashleigh Williams finished with 14 points apiece to lead Lewistown, which will play at the sixth-place team from District 7 in the plan-in round on Tuesday. Cheyenne Stonerook collected 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. ... Mercer finished with eight points, as did Rachel McClain coming off the bench. Ten Lady Tigers scored. ... Collins and Griffith had three steals apiece, while Alex Gildea pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, and Hannah Gildea blocked two shots. ... Hollidaysburg senior Mea Stellabotte sang the National Anthem before both games of Wednesday's Class AAA doubleheader.
LEWISTOWN (58): L. Snyder 6 1-3 14, A. Williams 4 4-7 14, Adams 3 0-0 6, Halfpenny 3 1-2 7, Stonerook 5 2-5 12, Siddons 1 0-0 2, Geedey 0 0-0 0, Cassatt 0 0-0 0, Hower 0 0-0 0, S. Williams 1 0-0 3, T. Snyder 0 0-0 0, Knable 0 0-0 0. Totals - 23 8-17 58.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (85): Collins 3 0-0 7, H. Gildea 7 1-1 19, Mercer 3 2-2 8, A. Gildea 9 4-5 24, Griffith 5 1-2 11, Ellis 1 0-0 2, McClain 2 4-4 8, Colmer 1 0-0 2, Treglia 0 2-2 2, Tomassetti 0 0-0 0, B. Anderson 0 2-2 2, C. Anderson 0 0-0 0, Boland 0 0-0 0, Shaffer 0 0-0 0. Totals - 31 16-18 85.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Lewistown10 17 13 18-58
Hollidaysburg20 27 22 16-85
3-point goals: Lewistown 4 (A. Williams 2, L. Snyder, S. Williams); Hollidaysburg 7 (Collins, H. Gildea 4, A. Gildea 2).
Team records: Lewistown (20-4); Hollidaysburg (20-4).
Officials: Dan Gales, Jeff Fisher. Tom Fountaine.