HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers realized the importance of getting out of the gate quickly Friday night in the championship game of the 12th annual Golden Tiger Roundball Classic.
And no Hollidaysburg player enjoyed a quicker start than senior post Morgan Griffith.
Griffith dominated the low blocks in the first quarter, when she scored 12 of her game-high 20 points and cemented her selection as the tournament's Most Valuable Player by leading unbeaten Hollidaysburg to an 81-49 rout of a solid Forest Hills team at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School gymnasium.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Morgan Jennings puts up a shot for the Lady Tigers basketball team.
Griffith capitalized on feeds from her backcourt mates and her formidable inside presence to score five first-quarter short-range field goals as Hollidaysburg hiked its season record to 6-0.
Hollidaysburg reached the championship game in the Golden Tiger Roundball Classic last year, but lost. Griffith and her teammates were determined not to let it happen again.
"We had a mentality that this was our year, our house, our tournament,'' Griffith said. "We had the mentality that we were going to represent the uniforms that we wear well. I think we all came out pretty strong.''
Thanks largely to Griffith's positioning in the paint, Hollidaysburg converted 10 of its 13 floor shots in the first quarter, when Forest Hills made just one of 15.
"We talked after [Thursday night's] game - (an opening-round win over Bryn Mawr of Baltimore, Md.) - and before tonight's game about getting out of the gate strong and not letting up,'' Hollidaysburg coach Deanna Jubeck said. "I reminded our players beforehand that the Christmas vacation didn't start until after this game. Our players really took that to heart.''
Hollidaysburg showed off its impressive depth while converting 31 of 54 floor shots for a 57 percent ratio. Senior Susie Ellis chipped in 14 points, junior Morgan Jennings added 11, and junior Courteney Storm scored 10.
Ellis and Jennings joined MVP Griffith - who also had 10 rebounds - as all-tournament selections from Hollidaysburg.
"Morgan Griffith, Morgan Jennings and Courteney Storm are all players who create match-up problems for opposing teams, and Susie Ellis had a fantastic tournament,'' Jubeck said.
Jennings, who transferred to Hollidaysburg from Notre Dame High School in the Philadelphia area, comes from good basketball stock. Her father, Michael, and mother, Anita, were both college basketball standouts at Penn State and St. Joseph's, respectively.
Jennings said that she feels right at home at Hollidaysburg.
"We came out of the gate at the beginning tonight, and that's what we needed to get our intensity going,'' Jennings said. "I couldn't be happier to be on this team. I feel so welcome here.''
Hollidaysburg gave Forest Hills a rude welcome Friday, gaining plenty of separation from the Lady Rangers (5-2) quickly.
"They're a great team,'' Forest Hills coach Carol Cecere said of the Lady Tigers. "We knew they were deep, and they shoot the ball well and they run the floor well.
"Hats off to them,'' Cecere said. "They did a great job offensively and defensively, and they handled us well.''
Forest Hills - which got 18 points from senior Casey Gallaher and 16 from junior Caitlyn Gallaher - carried the second quarter, 18-13 to make it a 36-21 game at halftime. But Hollidaysburg came out in the second half and dominated the third quarter, 26-10, to squlech any hopes of a Forest Hills comeback bid.
"Forest Hills has a very good team, and Coach Cecere does a great job with them,'' Jubeck said. "At no point in the game tonight were we comfortable with the lead. We stayed with it for 32 minutes.''
Game notes: Other all-tourney selections were Casey and Caitlyn Gallaher, and Hailey Wilwohl of Erie McDowell ... Wilwohl scored 13 points as McDowell defeated Bryn Mawr, 51-27 in Friday's girls consolation game.
FOREST HILLS (49): Caitlyn Gallaher 4 7-8 16, Casey Gallaher 7 3-4 18, Swanson 0 0-0 0, Meier 2 1-4 5, Zubek 1 1-1 3, Scott 1 0-0 2, Richards 1 2-2 4, Peretin 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 15-20 49.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (81): Griffith 8 4-6 20, Storm 3 3-4 10, Mercer 4 0-0 9, Muir 3 0-0 6, Servello 1 0-0 2, Jennings 4 2-2 11, S. Ellis 5 0-0 14, Tomasetti 0 0-0 0, McClain 2 3-3 7, Stitt 1 0-0 2, Kirsch 0 0-0 0, K. Davis 0 0-0 0, Hurliman 0 0-0 0, C. Ellis 0 0-0 0, Scheel 0 0-0 0, Haupt 0 0-0 0. Totals - 31 12-15 81.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Forest Hills3 18 10 18 - 49
Hollidaysburg 23 13 26 19 - 81
3-point goals: Forest Hills 2 (Caitlyn Gallaher, Casey Gallaher); Hollidaysburg 7 (Ellis 4, Jennngs, Storm, Mercer).
Records: Forest Hills (5-2); Hollidaysburg (6-0).
Officials: Dan Gales, Jeff Fisher, Kevin Lewis.