By Philip Cmor
When State College forward Bridget King saw Macey Hollenshead at the Summit Athletic Club for Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic practice on Tuesday evening, the two enjoyed a moment.
"I played with her over the summer. We don't play each other during the season," King said of Hollenshead. "She's awesome. She's a great person. She's a great player. She's just all-around great. I didn't know we were in the same area [to be picked for the game]. When I found out, it was awesome."
Seeing her friend and AAU teammate made King's day, but Hollenshead has ruined the nights for a lot of Southern Fulton High School's girls basketball foes over the last four years. During that time, the 5-foot-5 guard has led the Lady Indians to three District 5 Class A championships and four PIAA tournament trips, set her team's career scoring record, garnered all-state honors and became the Lady Indians' first-ever Division I recruit when she signed a letter-of-intent with Fairfield last fall.
Tonight Hollenshead will try to give area basketball fans that might not have known much about the rare talent from the southeast corner of the region a chance to see for themselves when she joins up with the rest of the Central PA girls against the Blair County all-stars at Mount Aloysius College. The girls game tips things off at 6:30 p.m., followed by the boys contest at approximately 8:15.
Blair County vs. Central PA
Times: Girls game: 6:30 p.m.; Boys game: 8:15 p.m.
Tickets: $5 for doubleheader (students 12 and under $3). Available at the Mirror until 5 p.m. today and beginning at 5:30 p.m. today at Mount Aloysius.
Benefit: The Big John Riley Scholarship Fund
Sponsor: Guy Landolfi CPA
Honorary captains: Former Altoona standouts Jennifer (Shingler) Hansberry and Brian Rehm for the Blair County teams while the Central PA honoraries are ex-Portage star Stacy Alexander and former North Star standout Drew Shubik.
The girls all-time series is knotted at four games apiece with the Blair girls looking for their third win in a row. Proceeds benefit the Big John Riley Scholarship Fund.
"It's a really big honor to be picked to play in a game so far from my school," said Hollenshead, who had nearly a 90-minute drive just to get to the practices in Altoona this week. My goals are just to have fun and give it our best shot and see what we can do. And, definitely, to win."
A number of the players in the game, both on her team and Blair County, already are quite familiar with what Hollenshead can do. In addition to King, fellow Central PA selectees Olivia McCabe of Portage and Caitlyn Gallaher of Forest Hills already have teamed up with Hollenshead in the PA Pride AAU program, as have Blair County players Courteney Storm and Morgan Jennings of Hollidaysburg and Bailey Swogger of Bellwood-Antis.
"I knew we were going to win. She has an amazing personality. She's a great leader. She taught our team a lot," Jennings said. "I worked out with her a couple of times and I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is going to be my point guard. She's awesome. She'd still dominate [if she played at Altoona or Hollidaysburg], if that's not too biased, because she's just an amazing athlete."
Hollenshead finished her career with more than 1,600 points at Southern Fulton. Because of her athletic ability, she was always adept at getting to the basket, but she became a more consistent and dangerous 3-point shooter as her scholastic career proceeded.
However, Hollenshead said she viewed her role as more than of a facilitator. It's something those that have played with her think she does extremely well.
"She's a great point guard. She gets everybody involved in the game," King said. "It's awesome."
That's no accident. Hollenshead's father, Joe, is the junior high girls basketball coach at Southern Fulton. He had her dribbling a ball since she was little and was bringing her to his practices by the time she was midway through elementary school.
"I think that's the only reason I'm so good, because I played basketball every single day," Hollenshead said.
Hollenshead, though, said she didn't realize she might be extraordinarily gifted until she reached junior high herself, although she credited a lot of her team's success to her teammates. When she began to hear from Division I colleges, she was surprised.
"I was like, 'Why? That's crazy,'" Hollenshead said of her reaction to the college interest. "I had no idea what I really was doing, thinking about college. [PA Pride director] Sam Pierce sat me down and said 'These colleges are interested in you. You really have to sit down and think about it.' It was a really cool process."
Hollenshead chose Fairfield from Connecticut, but it was far from her only option. Manhattan, Canisius, American, Mount St. Mary's and Bryant also offered scholarships.
"I just loved the campus. It felt very homey," Hollenshead said of Fairfield. "It's a 6-hour drive from my house, which is kind of far away. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's only a day trip. I just really liked the surroundings."
Hollenshead took the Southern Fulton program quite a ways during her time there. In 2013, the one year during her tenure the Lady Indians didn't win the district, she got them all the way to the PIAA Class A semifinals, where they eventually fell to eventual state champion Tri-Valley.
Hollenshead said a state championship was the main item left on her high school playing wish list that was left unchecked.
"That's what I dreamed of from playing when I was a little kid," Hollenshead said. "I didn't really dream of playing Division I. I dreamed of winning the state championship. But I'll take the Division I scholarship."
Although she comes from a small school, Hollenshead is familiar with the kind of competition that awaits her on the next level and in tonight's game. Not only did she play AAU with and against Class AAAA players, she also played on teams with older players, like Blair County Division I signees Halee Adams and Kayla Bates.
"It took adjustments," Hollenshead said. "The level of competition was very high. I respected all of them. It was a real eye-opener. Then, once I started playing with them, I was like, 'Hey, I can hang with them.' It was an awesome experience."
"She's just a great leader," Jennings said. "She could lead anywhere."