CRESSON - Portage girls basketball coach Lance Hudak and Tyrone girls coach Luke Rhoades both coached a pair of their star seniors for the last time Friday night at the ninth annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic at Mount Aloysius.
But there were no tears when the final horn blared this time - quite the opposite actually.
"It was pretty laid back and fun," said Rhoades, who is known for his high-energy coaching style. "I smiled in the locker room, and my Tyrone girls [Jordyn Swogger and Emily Iuzzolino] said 'holy heck he does smile.' I don't think I've ever sat on the bench the whole game like that before."
Rhoades witnessed quite the show, but the starring role came from the other bench as Hudak's Central PA squad pulled away from Rhoades' Blair County team in the second quarter and won, 96-74.
The win gave Central PA a 5-4 advantage in the series that began in 2006.
Eden Bloom, the first player from United in the Classic's history, led Central PA with 15 points and scored the first six points of the game en route to winning MVP honors. Altoona's Lauren Donley, who led Blair County with 14 points, won the Blair squad's MVP.
"It was an honor to play in this game," Bloom said. "We've had a lot of girls come through United with a lot of talent, and I'm really lucky to get this chance to play in this game with a bunch of great players."
Early in the game, the squads traded the lead 10 times before Blair County took a 13-12 advantage into the second quarter when Bellwood-Antis' Bailey Swogger made a pair of free throws.
The game stayed tight through the first 5 minutes of the second quarter before Central PA got a 3-pointer from State College's Bridget King that began a 13-1 run.
"Early on they weren't shooting well, and we were keeping it close," Rhoades said. "I knew it was only a matter of time before they started hitting. They have some outstanding shooters, and they hit their shots."
Blair County fell behind by 15 after three quarters, and the Central PA lead swelled to 79-54 early in the fourth shortly after Penn Cambria's Kaitlyn Krug drilled her second 3-pointer of the night. The 5-foot-5 guard suffered a severe hamstring injury in her final regular season game - a win over Forest Hills - and played only a few minutes of the Panthers' first-round playoff loss to Penns Valley.
Krug looked like she was back to nearly 100 percent Friday and played 15 minutes while scoring 12 points and tying for a team-high with five rebounds.
"I felt so much better and felt like I finally had a chance to redeem myself and get out there and play," Krug said. "It was a little tight at first, but once the adrenaline kicked in, everything was fine."
Krug plans to go to college and get into the medical field but hasn't chosen a school yet. No matter where she goes, she wants to continue her basketball career.
"Basketball has taught me a lot and made me who I am today," Krug said. "I'm a very competitive person, so to come out here and play well and get the win playing the game I love is awesome."
Portage's Olivia McCabe scored 14 points and her Mustangs teammate Emily Chobany added eight points.
"This isn't the Portage Lady Mustangs, but it's still a game and Em, Liv and myself wanted to win this game, and they played well," Hudak said. "It was a lot of fun. I have coached them since they were in third grade. This is the last time I'll get to be on the court with them, and it was a great experience. I'm proud of them."
Cousins Jordyn and Bailey Swogger combined for 10 points and seven rebounds for Blair County - which was without the services of Hollidaysburg star Courteney Storm due to a wrist injury. Altoona's Darby Lee, who is set to play basketball at Division I Hartford next year, scored 12 points, had six rebounds and was 8-for-8 from the foul line.
Central PA got nine points and a game-high five assists from their own Division I prospect, Macey Hollenshead, who is heading to Fairfield.
"Just watching these girls get up and down the court in practice was amazing," Hudak said. "We can move. They're athletic, skilled and there are a lot of kids who can play anywhere. They all have skill, and their talent really took over tonight."
BLAIR COUNTY (74): Iuzzolino 2-2 1-1 5, J. Swogger 1-8 1-2 4, Kulick 0-4 2-2 2, B. Swogger 1-4 4-6 6, Lee 2-5 8-8 12, Hatch 4-11 2-2 11, Rhule 1-1 0-0 2, Donley 5-7 4-6 14, Dombrowski 1-5 3-6 5, Smith 3-10 0-0 7, Jennings 2-8 2-2 6. Totals - 22-66 23-29 74.
CENTRAL PA (96): McCabe 6-7 2-3 14, Coughenour 1-2 4-4 6, Bloom 7-9 0-0 15, Hollenshead 4-6 1-3 9, King 3-11 0-2 7, Williams 1-2 1-2 3, Krug 4-8 2-2 12, Craig 4-8 1-2 9, Chobany 4-8 0-0 8, Glasser 2-5 1-2 6, Gallaher 2-10 0-0 5, Wasser 1-6 0-0 2. Totals - 39-82 12-20 96.
Halftime-Central PA, 42-31. 3-point goals-Blair County 7-27 (Donley 4-6, Hatch 1-4, J. Swogger 1-6, Smith 1-7, Kulick 0-1, B. Swogger 0-1, Jennings 0-2); Central PA 6-12 (Krug 2-4, Bloom 1-1, Glasser 1-1, Gallaher 1-1, King 1-2, Williams 0-1, Craig 0-2). Assists-Blair County 10 (Hatch 4); Central PA 14 (Hollenshead 5). Rebounds-Blair County 42 (Lee, Smith 6 each); Central PA 39 (McCabe, Krug, Chobany 5 each).
Officials: Joe Bilka, Sue Kovensky, Vicki, Markiewicz