Fast start propels Lady Lions

The Altoona Lady Lions opened the year 2013 in the same manner that they closed the year 2012 – successfully.

After capturing the championship in their own Altoona Area Holiday Basketball Tournament last weekend, the Lady Lions started the new year off with a flourish Wednesday night, busting out to a 21-4 first-quarter lead over Central Mountain en route to a 67-39 victory at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.

Altoona raced out to a 12-0 lead in the opening four minutes while improving its season record to 5-3.

“We changed up defenses, did a good job rebounding, and ran the fast break,” Altoona coach Jill Helsel said of her team’s early run. “We limited them to one shot, and we got out and finished.”

Lady Lions junior guard Lauren Donley led all scorers by hitting five 3-pointers in the game for 15 points. Junior forward Shania Feathers came off the bench to score 13 for Altoona, while junior forward Darby Lee added 11, and senior guard Kaycie Reffner scored 10.

It’s the type of balanced scoring attack that Helsel is getting accustomed to seeing from her team.

“We’ve had many kids step up,” Helsel said. “They’re performing their roles well and doing what is being asked of them. We’re getting better with each game.”

Altoona mixed its inside and outside games well to take control early Wednesday. Junior point guard McKenzie Hatch’s lay-in opened the scoring, and Lee’s short turnaround shot made it 4-0. Donley converted her first 3-pointer, from the left side, to put Altoona ahead, 7-0, before senior forward Kayla Grimme scored a field goal from the low post and Reffner hit a 3-ball from the left side to complete Altoona’s early 12-0 spurt.

“Our inside and outside games are complementary,” Helsel said. “If [an opposing defense] doubles down on us inside, we can kick the ball out.”

And when the ball went outside Wednesday, Donley was firing up deadeye jumpers from beyond the arc.

“She’s our shooter,” Helsel said. “That’s her role on the team – to shoot and play defense. She’s really coming into her role.”

Donley feels like she’s getting in a groove from 3-point range.

“The 3-point shot is my most comfortable shot,” she said.

Central Mountain (2-6) showed character after falling behind early. The Lady Wildcats held serve in the second and third quarters, a span over which Altoona held a slim 27-22 advantage.

“I felt like my girls gave a good effort,” Central Mountain coach Lyndsey Rogers said. “Altoona played some good solid pressure defense against us, and forced a lot of turnovers (15). But my team never gave up.”

The 21-4 deficit after one quarter was too large to overcome, though.

“When a team jumps out like that, it can either catch you off-guard, or you can respond,” Rogers said. “I think both happened with us. We responded, but by the time we did, they had a nice lead on us.”

Junior forward Sarah Jensen led Central Mountain with 12 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds.

Altoona led, 35-16 at intermission, and 48-26 after three quarters. Central Mountain could get no closer than to within 14 points, 50-36, on junior guard Shelbe Walker’s 3-point shot midway through the fourth quarter.

“I knew that we would have to play hard from the first tip on, and I think we did that as a team,” Donley said.

Game notes: Altoona’s jayvees won, 66-17, behind 16 points from Amanda Menegay, 13 from Rachel Dibert, and 11 from Ashley Muffie … Altoona hosts CD East Saturday. Varsity tipoff is 5:30 p.m.

CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (39): Walker 3 1-2 9, Heckman 1 2-2 4, Jensen 5 2-4 12, Garbick 2 0-0 5, Heckman 3 0-0 6, Miller 1 1-2 3, Shady 0 0-0 0, Gilmore 0 0-0 0, Sellinger 0 0-0 0. Totals – 15 6-8 39.

ALTOONA (67): Hatch 3 1-2 8, Reffner 4 0-0 10, Donley 5 0-0 15, Lee 5 1-2 11, Grimme 1 0-0 2, Feathers 5 3-6 13, Menegay 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 2-2 2, Caracciolo 0 0-0 0, Dibert 1 0-0 2, Knab 1 0-0 2. Totals – 26 7-12 67.


Central Mountain4 12 10 13 – 39

Altoona21 14 13 19 – 67

3-point goals: Central Mountain 3 (Walker 2, Garbick); Altoona 8 (Donley 5, Reffner 2, Hatch).

Records: Central Mountain (2-6); Altoona (5-3).

Officials: Jeff Fisher, Dan Gales, Mike Conron.