Beginning, end doom Lady Lions at home

While the Altoona and Mount Lebanon girls basketball teams are non-conference opponents, the Lady Lions are somewhat familiar with the WPIAL squad after falling to Mount Lebanon, 49-42, in the opening game of their season at the North Allegheny tip-off tournament in December.

Altoona coach Jill Helsel knows the type of effort it takes to beat the perennial power.

“[It takes] four good quarters of basketball,” Helsel said. “We didn’t have that. We had two.”

Helsel was referring to the second and third quarters in which the Lady Lions outscored the Lady Blue Devils by a combined 31-27.

It was a different story in the first and fourth, as Mount Lebanon outscored Altoona a combined 29-13, en route to victory over the Lady Lions at the AAHS Fieldhouse, 56-44, on Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 27-8 with 2:58 remaining in the second, Altoona (8-5) went on a 15-2 run to end the half to get itself back into the game, trailing by just six.

Darby Lee and sophomore guard Natalie Knab combined for 13 of the 15 points, with Knab hitting two key 3-pointers off the bench and Lee making all five of her free throw attempts in that span.

Lee led Altoona with 18 points, and Mackenzie Hatch chipped in seven.

“I think they did what they knew how do to,” Helsel said, referring to the run. “We came out in the third and outscored them again. The fourth quarter is what hurt us.”

“[Altoona] hit two big 3-pointers and got to the line to change the momentum,” Mount Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker said. “We didn’t panic. We tried to keep a level head for the rest of the game.”

Altoona’s third quarter started how the second ended, as it went on a 9-2 run. Kayla Grimme capped that run, making a layup with 5:21 remaining in the quarter to give the Lady Lions their only lead of the game, 32-31.

Mount Lebanon’s Margie McCaffrey answered with a layup of her own, and the Lady Blue Devils scored the next eight points to retake the lead by four after the third.

The fourth quarter saw Altoona make just two field goals, while Mount Lebanon (14-2) used rebounding and efficiency from the foul line to seal the game. McCaffrey sank three of her four foul shots down the stretch.

Mount Lebanon’s Alex Ventrone led the team with 18 points, while McCaffrey added 11.

“We started not to box out,” Helsel said. “We went back to what we were doing in the first quarter.”

Despite the loss, Altoona knows it will have to regroup and finish strong down the stretch.

“We will build off of the stuff that we did well,” Helsel said.

Oldaker enjoys out-of-conference matchups and the change of pace that it provides.

“We like scheduling teams like Altoona to challenge ourselves,” Oldaker said. “We know when we come here we are going to get a very quality opponent in a great atmosphere.”

Altoona will travel to Central Mountain on Thursday.

MOUNT LEBANON (56): McCaffrey 4 3-5 11, Frosztega 2 1-2 6, Ventrone 7 3-4 18, Ehland 5 0-1 10, Collins 3 4-4 10, Holmes 0 1-4 1. Totals: 21 12-20 56.

ALTOONA (44): Lee 6 6-7 18, Reffner 2 1-2 6, Grimme 2 1-2 5, Hatch 2 2-2 7, Dibert 0 2-2 2, Knab 2 0-0 6, Donley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 12-15 44.


Mount Lebanon13 16 11 16 – 56

Altoona5 18 13 8 – 44

3-point goals: Mount Lebanon 2 (Frosztega, Ventrone); Altoona 4 (Reffner, Hatch, Knab 2)

Records: Mount Lebanon (14-2); Altoona (8-5).

JV: Mount Lebanon, 50-40. High scorers-Dibert, A, 13; Rudick, ML, 11.