CRESSON - Rather than worrying about a game plan or an opposing player the night before the eighth annual Altoona Mirror Classic girls basketball game, Blair County coach Jeff Appleman took a moment to reflect on the team he was about to coach.
"I said to my wife last night, it's like coaching a college team," Appleman said. "They are all going to be recruited. They are all capable of playing, and you just have to figure out what combinations are going to work."
For most of the first half, Appleman was still searching for that combination. The Central PA girls went 9-for-14 from beyond the arc and built a nine-point halftime lead Friday at the Mount Aloysius' Health and Fitness Center gymnasium.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Blair County’s Halee Adams looks for shooting room in front of Central PA defender Maddy?Grimm.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Blair County’s Hannah Mercer (left) and Kayla Grimme close in on Central PA’s Sarah Pfeil.
Blair County opened the second half with three Hollidaysburg players on the court, Alexia Servello, Morgan Griffith and Hannah Mercer and two Bishop Guilfoyle players in Halee Adams and Kayla Bates.
That group went on a 14-2 run led by 10 points from Adams and took control of the game in an eventual 86-78 win for Blair County that evened the all-time series at 4-4.
Adams, who was named to the Class A All-State first team squad earlier this week, finished with game highs in points (22) and assists (six) and was named Blair County's Most Valuable Player.
"I just wanted to win, and I think my whole team wanted to win," Adams said. "It was awesome playing with [forwards Kayla Grimme and Griffith].
"I love playing down low, but I love playing guard more and they're way better post players than I am. It was nice having that size."
Grimme had so much success in the post that she actually set a Mirror Classic girls record with 16 rebounds. She added 17 points and three blocks.
"Kayla Grimme was just great inside," Appleman said. "Someone who hasn't signed her to a Division I scholarship is missing a great opportunity. She dominated inside."
Griffith finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Hollidaysburg and Bishop Guilfoyle combined to win 49 games this season, and the players from both squads would be justified in counting the Classic as No. 50.
"It was nice to play with everyone and my teammates again," Griffith said. "The BG girls are great, and it was nice to see us all work together."
Central PA MVP Erin Rodgers, a senior at Westmont Hilltop, scored a team-high 17 points and made four 3-pointers.
"We walked in at halftime and said, 'shooting like this is just unreal,'" Central PA coach Carol Cecere said. "We were wondering if they were going to come out on us more in the second half, and we didn't get nearly as many shots off in the last two quarters.
"They are all the best players on their own teams. It was an honor to be around them."
One of the players for Central PA, Juniata Valley's Abbie Zinobile, will be playing for Mount Aloysius next season.
Zinobile scored four points and had a team-high seven rebounds in front of her future teammates.
"It was great getting to work with the Central PA girls," Zinobile said. "I'm really excited. I just got to meet some of my team, and I really think we can go far next year."
Zinobile and Rodgers kept Central PA in the game through the third quarter, but Blair County opened the fourth with a 10-0 run and took a 72-59 lead that brought the crowd of nearly 900 fans to its feet.
Moments later, those fans could have heard a pin drop when Griffith fell to the floor and got some medical attention.
The hush turned to cheers when Griffith was not only able to get up, but stay in the game.
"We just killed them inside in that second half," said Appleman after Blair County won the rebounding battle, 58-34. "We just got so many rebound putbacks from Grimme, Griffith and Adams, and [Central PA] just looked a little tired."
CENTRAL PA (78): Halfpenny 4-9 0-0 10, Ward 2-4 0-0 5, Gallaher 3-8 0-0 8, Altomare 4-15 1-2 11, Pfeil 3-9 0-1 6, Livingston 1-3 0-0 2, Baer 2-3 0-0 5, Rodgers 6-11 1-1 17, Stockenus 2-5 0-0 4, Gillo 0-1 0-0 0, Grimm 2-7 2-2 6, Zinobile 2-7 0-0 4. Totals - 31-82 4-6 78
BLAIR COUNTY (86): Gripp 3-6 0-0 8, Leamer 3-6 0-0 6, Mercer 2-6 0-0 4, Griffith 7-15 0-0 14, Adams 9-15 4-5 22, Servello 1-6 0-0 2, Ehredt 0-2 0-0 0, Bates 0-2 0-0 0, Reffner 1-1 0-0 3, Stessney 1-5 0-0 2, Ellis 3-8 0-1 8, Grimme 5-16 7-8 17. Totals - 35-88 11-14 86.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Central PA 24 18 17 19 - 78
Blair County 20 13 29 24 - 86
3-pointers: Central PA 12-25 (Rodgers 4-6, Halfpenny 2-3, Gallaher 2-4, Altomare 2-8, Baer 1-2, Ward 1-2); Blair County 5-15 (Ellis 2-3, Gripp 2-3, Reffner 1-1, Mercer 0-1, Servello 0-1, Bates 0-1, Stessney 0-1, Adams 0-2). Rebounds: Central PA 34 (Zinobile 7); Blair County 58 (Grimme 16). Assists: Central PA 17 (Rodgers 3); Blair County 17 (Adams 6).
Officials: Todd Parker, Doug Moore, Gary Zimmerman