The Altoona Area High School Mountain Lions have had their struggles this season, including a 10-game losing streak that lasted more than a calendar month.
After ending its losing streak Tuesday night with a 20-point road win over Central Mountain, and then adding a 49-34 victory Thursday night against cross-town rival Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic at the Pleasant Valley Gym, the Lions might be peaking at the perfect time - beginning the postseason.
"We started off the season strong but really struggled in the middle of the season," Altoona coach Paul Hasson said. "Now our players are really looking forward to the playoffs."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Rafeeq Barnes shoots over Bishop Guilfoyle’s Colin Sullivan.
The Lions' offense has been the top reason for Altoona's struggles, failing to break 40 points 10 times. The one constant, though, has been a defense that has given up just less than 53 points per game. It has been even more stifling the last two games, giving up just a combined 71 points.
The Lions defense set the tone from the get-go, allowing the Marauders just nine first-quarter points. Altoona made an even bigger statement defensively in the second quarter, allowing just four points, including just one field goal.
"This is a tough place to play and a heated-rivalry," Hasson said. "I'm proud of the guys. They did a really nice job on defense."
"[Altoona] did a nice job defensively tonight," BG coach Josh Baker said. "They played great defense against all of our guys."
After taking a 24-13 halftime lead, Deshae Lee's traditional three-point play upped the Altoona lead to 29-15 with a little more than six minutes left in the third quarter. The next Mountain Lion points came via a Rafeeq Barnes slam dunk on a fastbreak. A few minutes later, BG's Damon Rickens drilled a 3-pointer, but Lee answered with a trey of his own. The Marauders trailed by 14 heading to the fourth quarter.
The only thing that gave the Marauders any hope was the long-range shooting by Brandon Drenning, who finished with a game-high four treys. He made two of those 3's in the fourth quarter, the second cutting the Mountain Lion lead to 10 with more than five minutes left. But Altoona finished the game on a 9-2 run that sealed the deal.
Following a 27-point outburst Tuesday, Lee netted a game-high 23 points against the Marauders.
"He's a really good player, and he'll only keep getting better," Baker said. "We wanted to force him to beat us from the perimeter, but he made his shots."
Altoona finished its regular season with a 7-15 record and will play in the District 6-AAAA playoffs next week. The Marauders finished their regular season at 12-10 and will play in the 6-A playoffs.
ALTOONA (49): Lee 10 1-1 23, Berardinelli 1 0-0 2, Dry 1 1-2 3, Lytle 2 0-0 4, Moyer 2 0-0 4, Barnes 3 2-2 8, Span 1 1-4 3, Skelley 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 5-9 49 .
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (34): Rickens 1 0-0 3, P. Irwin 1 1-2 3, Sullivan 0 2-2 2, Nardelli 0 0-0 0, Fulare 0 0-0 0, T. Irwin 4 0-0 8, Drenning 5 0-0 14, Patterson 2 0-2 4. Totals: 13 3-6 34.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona15 9 14 11 - 49
Bishop Guilfoyle9 4 11 10 - 34
3-point goals: Altoona 2 (Lee 2); Bishop Guilfoyle 5 (Drenning 4, Rickens).
Records: Altoona (7-15); Bishop Guilfoyle (12-10).
JV: Bishop Guilfoyle,43-42. High scorers-Berardinelli, A, 15; Rickens, BG, 21.