Altoona managed to score just 15 points in the first half. Fortunately for the Lady Lions, Darby Lee scored 20 points by herself in the second.
Lee's outburst helped Altoona recover from a slow start and beat Mercyhurst Prep, 52-35, at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse Friday.
"Darby did what she always does," Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. "We never think she has that many points, and in the first quarter she was struggling converting her shots, but when she finally did, she went up strong and was finishing."
Eleven of Lee's game-high 28 points came in the critical third quarter. The Lady Lions entered the second half trailing, 16-15, but outscored the Lady Lakers, 22-6 in the third.
McKenzie Hatch, coming off a career-high 18 points against State College Wednesday, also heated up in the third quarter. The junior guard, who went 0-for-4 in the first half, drained a pair of 3-pointers during a 22-4 run.
"They beat us down the floor in transition," Mercyhurst Prep coach Dan Perfetto said. "We gave up some easy baskets. Our on-the-ball pressure I thought was still fine, but we had a few breakdowns here and there that really hurt us."
The Lady Lakers began the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to cut Altoona's lead to 37-27. Mercyhurst kept within 10 and forced Altoona's Kayla Grimme to foul out of the game with 4:42 left. Grimme finished with 11 rebounds and three points.
Lee, however, stepped up in Grimme's absence and scored seven points in a 10-0 Altoona run that put the game away.
"Credit Mercyhurst's defense," Helsel said. "It was in your face, and they pressed us the entire game. We just continued to run and be disciplined and finally started to be successful on the inside."
Helsel said facing that kind of defensive pressure will help Altoona once the playoffs begin.
"Everybody in our district plays man-to-man defense, so this helps us," Helsel said. "It makes us tougher and makes the team gain composure."
Beyond its normal five starters, Altoona (13-6) got contributions from Natalie Knab, Rachel Dibert, Amanda Menegay, Shania Feathers and Brittanee Davis. With the Lady Lions trailing, 11-5, late in the second quarter, Knab connected on a 3-pointer that seemed to turn the switch for the Altoona offense.
"She's come in and hit key shots all year," Helsel said regarding Knab. "That's good for us, and it really kick-started our team."
Chloe Wright led Mercyhurst Prep with nine points, and Brenna Robbins secured 13 rebounds for the Lady Lakers. Mercyhurst dropped to 12-6 and will play at Hollidaysburg today at 2:30 p.m.
"We're playing some younger kids, so it will be a challenge," Perfetto said. "We're just going to have to go back, watch some film on them and try to make adjustments."
MERCYHURST PREP (35): Popoff 1 2-2 4, Woll 2 0-0 4, Robbins 2 1-2 6, Wright 3 2-4 9, Chrzanowski 1 1-2 3, Steiner 2 0-0 4, Shopene 0 0-0 0, Kubaney 0 2-2 2, Corritore 0 0-0 0, Simpson 1 0-0 3, Kinecki 0 0-0 0. Totals - 12 8-12 35.
ALTOONA (50): Lee 11 6-10 28, Grimme 1 1-2 3, Donley 1 0-0 3, Hatch 2 0-0 6, Reffner 0 7-10 7, Knab 1 0-0 3, Dibert 0 2-2 2, Menegay 0 0-0 0, Feathers 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16 16-24 52.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mercyhurst Prep5 11 6 13 - 35
Altoona2 13 22 15 - 52
3-point goals: Mercyhurst Prep 3 (Robbins, Simpson, Wright); Altoona 4 (Hatch 2, Knab, Donley).
Records: Mercyhurst Prep (12-6); Altoona (13-6).
Officials: Enoch Ferencz, Tona Williams, Steve Schaaf
JV: Mercyhurst Prep, 42-39. High scorers-Amanda Menegay, A, 10; Liz Kubaney, MP, 14.