WINGATE - Morgan Griffith has been one of the best high school girls basketball players in this part of the state this year, but Hollidaysburg showed on Saturday afternoon that it can find a way to win pretty convincingly even without her.
With Griffith in foul trouble almost from the start, the rest of the Lady Tigers raised their play. Five of them scored at least six points, while Michele Muir also had six steals as top-seeded Hollidaysburg led by as many as 25 and returned to the District 6 Class AAAA championship after winning Class AAA the last two years with a 58-43 win over Mifflin County at Bald Eagle Area High School.
"They are a lot more than Griffith," Mifflin County coach Kevin Kodish said. "She was probably more important to them last year. She's still a good player. In fact, she's probably better than last year. But she meant so much more. They depended on her to do a lot.
Photo for the Mirror by Christopher Shannon
Hollidaysburg’s Hannah Mercer slices between two Mifflin County defenders.
"Last year, we played them twice. This game was very similar to the game at our place. She got two fouls in the first half, and we beat them. It was following the script that we wanted."
However, these Lady Tigers were playing different roles. Hannah Mercer, who rarely looked for her shot last season, scored 13. Super sub Morgan Jennings, who played last year in Philadelphia, netted 12. Courteney Storm, who came off the bench in that Lady Tiger loss, tossed in 11 in Saturday's playoff win that raised their record to 21-2 and set up a meeting on Wednesday at St. Francis University against Altoona.
"Jennings is phenomenal," Kodish said. "If that's a player coming off the bench for you, you're pretty good."
Griffith finished with eight points, while Muir and Susie Ellis added seven and six points, respectively.
"We hadn't been in that situation at all this year, but we knew it would come sooner or later," Lady Tigers coach Deanna Jubeck said. "Courteney Storm and Morgan Jennings did a good job controlling the post area. Susie Ellis got a couple of good steals. Michele Muir had some good steals. Lexi [Servello] and Red [Hannah Mercer] had some good ball pressure to take them out of their offense."
Muir used her head a little too much in last year's postseason - she missed a couple of games with a concussion. On Saturday, she did a little bit of everything, coming up with seven points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists in the first half to help lift the Lady Tigers to a 12-point halftime advantage even though Griffith was sitting the majority of the time with two fouls.
She did that while taking shots defending each of Mifflin County's top three scorers - Olivia Halfpenny, Ashleigh Williams and Logan Snyder.
"I mainly just focus on my defense. I let the shooters do their shooting," said Muir, whose career scoring high is 13 points. "I just took my open shots. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. If it was there, I was going to take it."
Hollidaysburg trailed for much of the first quarter and only led by a point with 4:05 left in the half before going on a 12-1 run before intermission by forcing seven turnovers and making five steals. The Lady Tigers scored the first three points of the second half and never led by fewer than 10 after that.
The Lady Tigers had beaten Mifflin County by 42 in late January in Lewistown.
"This is what we expected. These guys have gotten better," Jubeck said. "They were on fire the first quarter. They did what that they had to do to push us and make us [step up our game]."
Williams and Halfpenny led the Lady Huskies (11-12) with 12 points.
Hollidaysburg will be playing in its fifth straight district final and trying to win its first in Class AAAA since 1991.
"It's just exciting," Muir, a senior, said. "We really feel we can do something special this year. We're going to keep our expectations high and go from there. Give it all we've got."
MIFFLIN COUNTY (43): Snyder 3 3-4 9, Williams 5 1-1 12, Knable 2 0-0 4, Cline 1 0-2 3, Halfpenny 5 1-1 13, Kibe 0 0-0 0, Hendricks 1 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Dietrich 0 0-0 0. Totals - 17 5-8 43.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (58): Servello 0 1-2 1, Mercer 5 1-2 13, Muir 3 1-1 7, Storm 4 2-4 11, Griffith 4 0-0 8, S. Ellis 2 1-2 6, Jennings 5 2-4 12, Tomassetti 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0, McClain 0 0-0 0, Hurliman 0 0-0 0, Haupt 0 0-0 0. Totals - 23 8-15 58.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mifflin County13 9 7 14-43
Hollidaysburg15 19 8 16-58
3-point goals: Mifflin County 4 (Cline, Halfpenny 2, Williams); Hollidaysburg 4 (Storm, Mercer 2, S. Ellis).
Officials: Dan Gales, Kevin Lewis, Jeff Fisher.
Team records: Mifflin County (11-12); Hollidaysburg (21-2).