Lady Lions finally beat Oakland Catholic

The Altoona girls basketball team has had no success against Oakland Catholic the past two seasons, going 0-3 with two of those losses coming in the first round of the state playoffs.

The Lady Lions changed that trend with a 45-22 win over the Pittsburgh-area school Saturday at the AAHS Fieldhouse.

“They’ve become our rivals, knocking us out of the state playoffs the last two years,” Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. “The seniors on this team saw it both years. They witnessed it. It’s fabulous to win in this manner.”

Altoona blew open a close game with a 16-2 run late in the first half and into the third quarter. The Lady Lions outscored Oakland Catholic 31-8 over the final two-plus quarters.

“We’ve really been working hard on our defense. It’s a game-changer. All the fundamentals were there [Saturday],” Helsel said.

Kayla Grimme turned in a strong game for Altoona with 16 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Darby Lee had a double-double as well with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“It feels good to win like that. In every aspect, we played hard, and I think it showed,” Grimme said.

Tied 14-14 toward the end of the second quarter, Altoona scored the final six points of the half.

Following a Grimme layup, Lee made back-to-back hoops. Her layup at the halftime buzzer put Altoona ahead 20-14. With time running out, Grimme grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and got the outlet pass to Kaycie Reffner, who found Lee streaking toward the basket.

Altoona scored 10 of the first 12 points in the third quarter to continue pulling away from the Lady Eagles.

Grimme scored on a putback, and Reffner drained a 3-pointer to open the second half. When Grimme made a layup off an assist from McKenzie Hatch with two minutes left in the quarter, Altoona held a 30-16 lead.

“She’s a nice player,” Oakland Catholic coach Shannon Boyle said of Grimme. “She’s a big girl that’s hard to matchup against. We don’t have anybody like that to defend her.”

Hatch padded the lead with a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, and Donley’s four-point play midway through the final period iced the win.

Grimme attributed her team’s success to the work done in the practice leading up to the game.

She said she’s been working with the guards at getting the ball in a good spot to finish plays, and the team worked on defending the Lady Eagles “cut and pick” offense.

“We all knew where we were supposed to go and how to deal with the screens,” Grimme said.

Oakland Catholic’s top player, Nicole Johnson, picked up two early fouls and got a third before halftime, forcing her to the bench for a lengthy stretch.

“That really hurt our team,” Boyle said. “It eliminated a lot of what we want to do.”

NOTES: Former Penguins player and current announcer Jay Caufield was at the game. His daughter Madison Caufield is a starting guard for Oakland Catholic. She scored a team-high seven points for the Lady Eagles…Neither team shot well from the 3-point line. Altoona made 3-of-22, Oakland Catholic 1-of-19…Altoona plays at Brashear Wednesday before returning home Saturday for an afternoon game against Mount Lebanon.

OAKLAND CATHOLIC (22): Fitzgerald 1 2-2 4, Renk 1 0-0 2, McCorkle 0 1-2 1, Johnson 2 1-2 5, Caufield 3 0-0 7, Kush 0 0-0 0, Bianchin 0 0-0 0, Vigliotti 0 1-2 1, Nedrow 1 0-0 2, Zegeer 0 0-0 0. Totals – 8 5-8 22.

ALTOONA (45): Hatch 1 2-3 5, Donley 1 1-1 4, Lee 5 5-6 15, Grimme 7 2-2 16, Reffner 1 0-0 3, Knab 0 0-0 0, Mayhue 1 0-0 2, Caracciolo 0 0-0 0, Feathers 0 0-0 0, Dibert 0 0-0 0. Totals – 16 10-12 45.


Oakland Catholic7 7 4 4 – 22

Altoona6 14 10 15 – 45

3-point goals: Oakland Catholic 1 (Caufield); Altoona 3 (Hatch, Donley, Reffner).

Records: Oakland Catholic (5-7); Altoona (7-4).

Officials: Ray Wotkowski, Jim Buchanan, Sam Zambanini.

JV: 53-28, Altoona. High scorers-Pawlik 9 (OC); Knab 18 (A).