HOLLIDAYSBURG - If Deanna Jubeck ever decides to hang up her whistle and give up coaching basketball, she might have a future in fortune-telling.
She certainly was on the mark with her latest prediction.
"We've talked to them that there's going to be a time when [senior post player Morgan Griffith] isn't going to score 20 or 25 points. So they had to step up," Jubeck said of the message she's been conveying to her Hollidaysburg Area High School girls players, particularly the guards, over the last two weeks. "They took that, and they ran with it."
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona’s Kayla Grimme battles Hollidaysburg’s Susie Ellis (right) for a loose ball on Thursday.
Altoona held Griffith to 10 points. However, four Lady Tigers scored at least six - led by Hannah Mercer with 15 and Courtney Storm with 12 - and Hollidaysburg took advantage of a press-induced 14-0 run at the end of the first half to defeat the Lady Lions for the second time this season, 56-44, at the Hollidaysburg Senior High School on Thursday night.
Hollidaysburg, which edged Altoona by a point at the AAHS Fieldhouse on Dec. 12, raised its record to 16-1. The teams might play again in the District 6 Class AAAA playoffs, but this win still tasted very sweet to the Lady Tigers.
"Me and the rest of the seniors were talking about how this was going to be the last time we were going to play Altoona on our home court with our home fans, We were like, 'This is our last one. We've got to go out and leave it all on the court,'" said Mercer who scored nine points in the last 5:24. "I know districts is in a while, and that's important. But, right now, this was the most important game.
"I don't know when was the last time we beat Altoona twice in a season."
It was 2007-08, when Griffith's older sister, Taylor, was a Lady Tiger senior. That time, Altoona avenged two regular-season losses in the 6-AAAA semifinals.
Although the final difference was 12, the Lady Lions (9-6) actually were within three points with less than six minutes to play. Hollidaysburg managed to surge to a 14-point lead at halftime by turning to its full-court press to break open a 19-all tie in the last 3:46 of the second quarter.
"The game was like a yo-yo at that point. We looked for something to be a spark," Jubeck said.
Hollidaysburg caused four straight turnovers in the backcourt in that span to provide it.
"That's what beat us. We practiced against their man-to-man. They threw that press on there, and our girls panicked. It gave Hollidaysburg something to feed off of," Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. "We wanted to start off strong in the fourth quarter, and we did that. We wanted to stop Morgan Griffith, and we did that. I thought we rebounded well. I thought our bigs played well. If we handle [the press] a little better, we don't get down by so much, and we don't have to expend so much energy coming back."
Kayla Grimme fronted Altoona with a near-triple-double of 15 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocked shots, while forward Darby Lee netted 11 points.
Hollidaysburg, though, got production from all over. In addition to Mercer, Storm and Griffith, Morgan Jennings came off the bench to finish with nine points, and Altoona transfer Alexia Servello provided six points and two assists in the early going.
Storm's points came in spite of foul trouble and having the task of defending Lee, who had 28 points in the first meeting.
"When I do good on defense, I get more relaxed on offense, because I'm playing better. It keeps me in a good attitude," Storm said. "We were hyped. We knew what we had to do, and we came out and did it."
Mercer, Jennings and Storm scored all the points during the 14-0 run. Jennings, a transfer from Academy of Notre Dame in Philadelphia, used her 6-foot wingspan to make a couple of big steals. She's the daughter of former Altoona great Anita Moore.
"I just want to make her proud. I hope [I did,]," Jennings said. "All the anticipation and preparation had me ready. Today was a good day to show it."
Rarely a shooter before this season, Mercer came up two points shy of matching her career high of 17 from five days earlier.
"I'm starting to have a little more confidence," Mercer said. "We have a really balanced team."
Natalie Knab gave Altoona eight points off the bench. Helsel looked at the big picture afterward.
"We play our scheduled to get better," Helsel said. "Every game we take something from, and we get better."
Game notes: Griffith finished with five steals. ... Helped by committing eight turnovers to Altoona's 24, Hollidaysburg took 12 more shots from the field, 59-47. ... The Lady Tigers held on for a 40-38 win in the junior varsity contest after Altoona stormed back from an 11-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to draw even late. ... The Lady Lions host Bishop McCort tonight. Hollidaysburg's next game is at Ambridge on Saturday.
ALTOONA (44): Hatch 2 0-0 5, Reffner 0 5-6 5, Donley 0 0-0 0, Lee 5 1-5 11, Grimme 7 1-3 15, Knab 3 0-0 8, Feathers 0 0-0 0, B. Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 7-14 44.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (56): Mercer 5 5-6 15, Servello 3 0-0 6, Muir 0 0-0 0, Storm 3 4-4 12, Griffith 5 0-1 10, S. Ellis 2 0-0 4, Jennings 3 3-5 9. Totals - 21 12-16 56.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona11 8 14 11 - 44
Hollidaysburg13 20 6 17 - 56
3-point goals: Altoona 3 (Hatch, Knab 2); Hollidaysburg 2 (Storm 2).
Records: Altoona (9-6); Hollidaysburg (16-1).
Officials: Kevin Lewis, Chris Rickens, Dave Baronner.
JV: Hollidaysburg, 40-38. High scorers-Sierra Kirsch, H, 17; Brittanee Davis, A, 9.