STATE COLLEGE - When asked about the leadership shown by Lauren Donley and Darby Lee, Altoona coach Jill Helsel couldn't help but smile.
"When you're a senior, that's what you do," she said.
Courtesy of Donley's four 3-pointers and Lee's 22-point, 10-rebound performance, the Lady Lions survived a back-and-forth affair against State College, defeating the Lady Little Lions, 62-56, Thursday night at State College High School.
The win evened Altoona's mark at 5-5 while State College fell to 7-6.
Lee managed to set the tempo early in the game's first minute with a steal, setting up a McKenzie Hatch 3-pointer for the early lead.
Altoona capped off the quarter with a buzzer beater by Donley to give Altoona the early 18-12 advantage.
"The fast pace definitely pushing the ball up [helped], and I knew I was hitting [shots], so I thought I'd knock them down," Donley said.
The tide started to turn briefly in the second quarter as State College managed to outscore Altoona, 20-12,. Jalyn Shelton-Bureligh scored six of her 14 points to give the home team a 32-30 lead at the intermission.
"They have some really nice outside shooters, which they were all on tonight," State College coach Bethany Irwin said. "It was going to go down to the wire, and they hit free-throws. We didn't get to the foul line enough."
State was 2-for-6 from the free-throw line while Altoona went 11-for-16.
Both teams were unable to obtain double-digit lead in the first half, and it would hold true in the second half.
Ashley Muffie and Lee led the Lady Lions' offensive charge, both scoring a combined 12 points. State kept the game interesting as Megan Hurley buried a jumper at the buzzer to cut the deficit to three, trailing 47-44.
"Playing against State College is always a good game because they're such a good team, and it's always such a hard-fought win," Lee said. "I wanted to come in and give it my best shot and luckily I was hitting tonight."
Altoona ultimately pulled away midway through the fourth quartered powered by a layup and put back by Lee, capped off by Donley's fourth three with 2:15 to play in the game.
Kyla Irwin led all scorers for State College with 19 points, and even caught the attention of coach Helsel.
"They're a great team," Helsel said. "They have one of the best kids in the state in Kyla Irwin. We know she's going to get her points, and I think we did a good job containing the rest of their team."
The schedule doesn't get any easier for Altoona as the Lions will head out to Pittsburgh to take on Mount Lebanon.
ALTOONA (62): Hatch 1 5-5 8, Dibert 1 0-0 2, Darb. Lee 11 0-0 2, Caraciollo 1 2-4 5, Davis 3 0-2 8, Donley 4 0-0 12, Newberry 0 0-0 0, Muffie 0 5-6 5, Darc. Lee 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 11-16 62
STATE COLLEGE (56): Irwin 8 2-4 19, Treglia 3 0-0 7, King 4 0-2 9, Shelton-Burleigh 7 0-0 14, Mahon 1 0-0 2, Hurley 1 0-0 2, Lenze 1 0-0 3. Total 25 2-6 56.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 18121715 62
State College 12201212 56
3-point field goals: Altoona 8 (Hatch, Donley 4, Caraciollo, Davis 2); State College 4 (Irwin, Treglia, Lenze, King)
Records: Altoona (5-5); State College (7-6)
JV Score: Altoona 53-41. High scorers Sarah Donley, Amber Newberry, A, 13; Abby Allen, SC, 13.