CRESSON - In early January, the Cambria Heights girls basketball team began a freefall partially fronted by a six-point loss to Penn Cambria.
Friday night at Penn Cambria High School, the Lady Highlanders cut loose on some of their frustrations.
Led by its strong second-half defense and Amanda Short's 12-point third quarter, Cambria Heights pulled away for a 54-42 victory over the Lady Panthers on Penn Cambria's senior night.
It was just the Lady Highlanders' second win in their last 10 games, and first win in Section 1 of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference.
"I just thought our girls wanted it bad," Cambria Heights coach Tracy Neff said. "We were hungry for it. They wanted it bad since Penn Cambria beat us at our place."
"Cambria Heights came to play tonight and we didn't," Penn Cambria coach Bruce Frycklund said. "This is the first time since the [Bishop Guilfoyle] game that we were that way. You've got to give Cambria Heights all of the credit in the world. They outrebounded us, they out-hustled us - just executed a lot better than we did."
The Highlanders (7-11, 1-7 LHAC 1) had a one-point lead at halftime and watched it disappear on the Lady Panthers' opening possession of the third quarter when Brianna Mulhearn hit a bucket.
Heights, though, scored the next six points - including four by Short - and never looked back.
Penn Cambria's Megan Wheeler hit a 3-pointer to cut into the lead, but Short just went off and scored the rest of Cambria Heights' points in the period.
"She waited 17 games to start driving [to the hoop]," Neff said of Short, who had a game-high 19 points. "She has the talent and all of the ability, but she wouldn't drive it. Tonight, she took over. Hopefully she can continue to do it and finish out the year playing like that."
The Lady Highlanders also did their fair share on defense.
Cambria Heights forced Penn Cambria (13-5, 4-3) into 13 second-half turnovers. Eight were in the third quarter alone.
"They do a great job with their press, and we did a lousy job executing our press-breakers," Frycklund said. "We didn't execute anything tonight."
In the first half, the Highlanders put up 27 3-point attempts - as many total attempts as the Panthers had from the floor - and connected on seven.
Serafina Bills hit each of her three 3-pointers in the first two quarters at critical times to either tie the game or give Cambria Heights the lead.
She finished with 11 points off the bench.
"For us, this year it seems [typical to have so many 3-point attempts]," Neff said. "At the beginning of the year, we wanted to pound it inside because of our height. We weren't scoring, so we just started going out to [shoot] 3s and it seems they like to play like that."
Tori Shingler scored each of her 10 points in the first half for the Lady Panthers, while Brianna Kearney added 10.
Mulhearn finished with a team-high 11 points.
Friday's loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Penn Cambria, but Frycklund hopes his team can bounce back quickly in the push for the postseason.
"We're having a good year, and we want to be heading into the playoffs on a positive, but we've got to find out what we're made of in practice on Sunday," he said. "If I have to change the lineup, I'm going to change the lineup. We just can't go out and play like that."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (54): Short 7 4-7 19, Henry 3 0-1 7, Weaver 1 0-0 3, Kosicki 2 0-2 4, Cordell 1 4-4 7, Bills 3 2-2 11, Snedden 0 0-0 0, Conrad 1 1-1 3. Totals 18-62 11-17 54.
PENN CAMBRIA (42): Kearney 3 3-6 10, Mulhearn 3 5-5 11, Regan 1 0-1 2, Shingler 4 2-3 10, Wheeler 2 0-1 5, Krug 2 0-0 4, Roberts 0 0-0 0. Totals 15-41 10-16 42.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cambria Heights16 14 16 8 - 54
Penn Cambria14 15 9 4 - 42
3-point goals: Cambria Heights 7-31 (Short, Henry, Weaver, Cordell, Bills 3), Penn Cambria 2-11 (Kearney, Wheeler).
Records: Cambria Heights (7-11, 1-7 LHAC 1), Penn Cambria (13-5, 4-3 LHAC 1).
JV: Cambria Heights, 30-14. High scorers-Snedden, CH, 10; Capelli/Smith, PC, 5 each.