STATE COLLEGE - The Altoona Lady Lions entered Wednesday night's game with State College having lost four games by seven points or less.
They managed to make another close one go in their direction this time.
Altoona (6-4) had three starters in double figures as the Lady Lions rolled to a 61-53 upset of the Lady Little Lions at State College High School.
"We play a very tough schedule," Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. "We have been with every team. I told them it's time to start pulling [the close games] out and winning them, and tonight was huge."
The first half started out eerily similar to the how the first nine games went for the Lions.
The Lady Little Lions managed to jump out to an early 6-2 lead by Kyla Irwin and Bridget King.
Lauren Donley managed to break the momentum with a game-tying 3-pointer to keep the game even at 9-9 after one quarter.
Donley scored 15 points, all coming off 3-pointers.
In the second quarter, both offenses got into a seesaw battle where Altoona fell behind by no more than four points. Darby Lee managed to nail two free throws to bring the Lady Lions within two, trailing 22-20 at the break.
Lee scored 16 points and went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, but was pulled after some early struggles during the first quarter and a half.
"Just don't let this get to your head. I know how good you are," Lee said of coach Helsel's remarks at the bench.
The Lady Lions' fortune changed at the start of the second half.
Lee bounced back to lead the team with 12 points in the third quarter. Altoona's rally was powered by Kaycie Reffner's 3-pointer with 4:58 left to give the Lady Lions a 44-34 lead at the end of three quarters.
"We weren't confident in the first half with our shots," Reffner said. "Once we got into a rhythm and started hitting shots, it was our game from there."
Altoona outscored the Lady Little Lions, 24-12, in the third. Reffner scored seven of her team-high 17 points in the quarter.
"[The] kids didn't go out focused and they tried to do things on their own and that's not the way we run things," State College coach Bethany Irwin said.
In the fourth quarter, Altoona didn't look back as Donley nailed a critical 3-pointer, and Reffner sank two pivotal free throws for the game's final result.
"My teammates did a great job getting me the ball and I needed to hit the shots when the opportunity came," Reffner said of her chance to put the game away.
"Altoona played the game they needed to play to win," Irwin said. "I am not going to take away from them."
Lee couldn't have been happier to get a game like this bounce Altoona's way.
"We've let a lot of close games slip by us this season," Lee said, "And this game we need[ed] to say enough is enough and step up and finally win one of these close ones."
Helsel is looking forward to the road ahead, as her team will now face Oakland Catholic at home Saturday night.
"It's big to see where we are at right now," Helsel said. "I think we're two even teams who work hard. Hopefully our schedule that we have played is going to make us better for District 6."
ALTOONA (61): Lee 4 8-8 16, Donley 5 0-0 15, Reffner 4 8-13 17, Hatch 2 5-6 9, Grimme 1 0-0 2, Dibert 0 0-0 0, Feathers 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 21-27 61.
STATE COLLEGE (53): Stevenson 0 0-0 0, Altomare 4 1-3 11, Irwin 8 8-9 25, King 5 0-0 10, Allison 2 0-0 4, F. Treglia 1 0-0 3, Karstetter 0 0-0 0, Kaluza 0 0-0 0, A. Treglia 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 9-12 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona9 11 24 17 61
State College9 13 12 19 53
3-point field goals: Altoona 6 (Donley 5, Reffner); State College 4 (Altomare 2, Irwin, F. Treglia).
Referees: Keith Cremer, Dave Schall, Rod Wilson.
Records: Altoona (6-4), State College (9-4)
JV: State College, 53-33. High scorers Taylor Mayhue, Ashley Muffie, A, 9; Allison Williams, SC, 8