As much as Altoona's history is tied to railroads, the city and indeed the rest of Blair County have become nearly as well-known for producing top high school girls basketball talent over the last few decades.
Like the trains, the latter tradition will continue to power on today when three players from city high schools are expected to sign with Division I college programs on the first day of the NCAA's fall signing period.
The Altoona Mirror's last two area players of the year, Halee Adams and Kayla Bates, are set to sign their letters-of-intent with Siena and Mount St. Mary's, respectively, at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School at 3 p.m., along with Marauder baseball player Jextin Pugh, who is making official his decision to go to Division I Binghamton.
Meanwhile, at 2 p.m. at the Kimmel Board Room at Altoona Area High School, Kaycie Reffner will join the long list of Lady Lions who have gone Division I when she is expected to sign with Presbyterian.
Bates, a 5-foot-8 point guard, garnered the top award and made all-state last year as a junior, keying the Lady Marauders' run to another District 6 Class A championship by averaging 12.7 points and 2.6 assists. Bates helped shoulder the load for BG while Adams, a 5-8 swing player who was a two-time all-state pick, the Mirror's 2010 player of the year and the fastest Lady Marauder ever to reach 1,000 points, recuperated from knee surgery that sidelined her for half the year.
A 5-6 wing guard, Reffner served as a glue player who supplied grit, hustle and defense more than a scorer as Altoona repeated as the District 6 Class AAAA champion, but she showed the coaches at the transitional DI college over the summer enough that they felt she could help them compete as they move into the Big South Conference and offered her a scholarship.
Along with Pugh, four other area scholastic stars will sign letters of intent, representing three sports.
Hollidaysburg's Morgan Griffith and Alexia Servello appear to be heading to Division II Shippensburg; Griffith is a forward, while Servello, who played the last two seasons at Altoona, is a point guard. Their teammate, Hannah Mercer, also is headed to the PSAC, but she'll be signing with IUP to play softball.
A pair of all-area boys basketball forwards also will be making their choices public and formal. Penn Cambria's 6-7 A.J. Leahey will join several other past local stars at Division II Pitt-Johnstown, while 6-6 Noah Davis of Bellwood-Antis will get to go up against him in the PSAC as a member of the team at Seton Hill. Leahey and Davis both were voted first-team Mirror all-stars last season, Davis for the second year in a row.
Davis will sign at a ceremony at the Bellwood-Antis gymnasium at 3:30 p.m.
In addition, State College's Franki Treglia, a former Hollidaysburg basketball player, is expected to sign with the United States Naval Academy.