Lauren Hippo regained her shooting touch at the perfect time.
Hippo scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, as Altoona Area averted a third straight loss by coming back from a six-point second-half deficit to trim State College, 54-48, in high school girls basketball on Wednesday night at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.
"We were really stressing everybody working together as a team at the beginning of the week,'' Hippo, a 5-foot-10 senior, said. "After two hard losses [to state powers Mount Lebanon and Oakland Catholic], it felt good to come out and win this game.''
Mirror photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
Altoona’s Lauren Hippo puts up a shot as State College’s Bridget King defends.
Altoona raised its record to 14-2, but the outcome was in doubt until the final minute. State College led by six after Jenna Altomare's three-point play with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
Hippo, though, stepped up with her second 3-pointer of the game just over a minute into the fourth period, then came up with back-to-back field goals on a fallaway baseline jumper and a fast-break layup after a pass from Kayla DeCriscio to knot the score at 44.
After DeCriscio missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hippo pulled down the rebound and found the ball back in her hands for a trey with 1:41 left after it was worked around to make it a four-point Lady Lion lead.
Hippo put the last two points on the board from the foul line with 14.7 seconds to play.
Hippo said she was looking for her shot a little bit more than usual in the second half; DeCriscio, Altoona's primary 3-point threat, spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble.
"They tell us to be confident with the ball,'' Hippo said. "Really, whoever has the open shot, we work to get the ball in the hoop.''
Hippo had six points at halftime, then swished a quick-release 3-pointer from the wing early in the third quarter that seemed to get her untracked.
"That's her shot, and she's actually been struggling with that. When you get a couple of shots falling, you get more confident,'' Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. "When you stop worrying about making mistakes and just play the game, you start being successful.''
"They shot very well in the fourth quarter, and it was Hippo,'' State College coach Bethany Irwin said. "We couldn't focus on all five of them. We were definitely focused on their inside game. It really hurt us last time. They're much taller than us.''
Altoona won the first meeting in State College on Jan. 5, 50-47. State College led the rematch by as many as eight in the first half before falling to 8-6. Irwin, though, saw the near-miss as something of a moral victory.
"I'm excited that I saw four hard quarters, because we haven't been getting that,'' Irwin said. "They showed up, and I'm really excited to see that heading into February.''
Helsel had reason for concern after her Lady Lions, who had been undefeated before last week, dropped consecutive games on trips to Pittsburgh.
"You don't know [how they'll react]. You have to wait and see how the game goes. I'm glad they stepped up and rose to the occasion,'' Helsel said.
It looked like Altoona was dealing with a hangover for much of the contest. The Lady Lions were 4-of-15 from 3-point range and had 18 turnovers entering the fourth quarter.
Altoona got a lift from an unlikely source when Helsel inserted little-used sophomore Mackenzie Hatch into the varsity backcourt in the first quarter for defense. Hatch responded with the unexpected bonus of seven points while Altoona was struggling for offense.
"It was a big surprise to me,'' Hatch said. "I didn't want to disappoint the coaches, because we have been working hard at practice. I wanted to show her that we all have heart.''
Kayla Grimme collected 10 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots for Altoona. Altomare led State College with 12 points, while Taylor Allison netted 11.
Game notes: The Lady Lions travel to the Reading area to take on Wilson on Saturday afternoon. ... A moment of silence was held in memory of Joe Paterno before the varsity tipoff. ... Leah Chesney fired in 21 points in the junior varsity contest to spark Altoona to a 45-19 win. Former Williamsburg and Hollidaysburg coach Jeff Appleman was one of the JV officials.
STATE COLLEGE (48): Mahon 1 4-4 7, Baney 0 0-2 0, Altomare 5 2-3 12, King 3 1-4 7, Allison 4 0-0 11, F. Treglia 3 0-2 7, Stevenson 1 0-2 2, Kerstetter 1 0-0 2. Totals - 18 7-17 48.
ALTOONA (54): Servello 0 0-0 0, Reffner 1 0-0 3, DeCriscio 2 2-3 8, Hippo 7 4-5 21 Grimme 3 4-6 10, Lee 2 1-2 5, Hatch 2 2-2 7, Chesney 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 13-18 54.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
State College12 10 16 10 - 48
Altoona12 12 9 21 - 54
3-point goals: State College 5 (Mahon, Altomare 3, F. Treglia); Altoona 7 (Hatch, DeCriscio 2, Hippo 3, Reffner).
Records: State College (8-6); Altoona (14-2).
Officials: Darrell Jones, Bill Correll, Sam Zambanini.
JV: Altoona, 45-19. High scorers-Ali Treglia, SC, 11; Leah Chesney, A, 21.