Lady Lions keep rolling, knock out Mifflin County

The Mifflin County High School girls basketball team was playing for its playoff lives Thursday night.

The Altoona Area High School girls were playing for their seniors, who were celebrating their final appearances on the Altoona Fieldhouse floor.

Sentiment and emotion won out over necessity, as Altoona carved out a 59-42 victory that kept Mifflin County from entering the upcoming District 6-AAAA playoffs.

Altoona finished its regular season at 10-11 and will participate in those 6-AAAA playoffs against either State College or Hollidaysburg on a date that has yet to be finalized.

Mifflin County (8-12) needed to win each of its last three regular-season games in order to reach the .500 mark and qualify for postseason consideration, according to its county rules.

“I thought we played hard, I just don’t think we played well tonight,” said Mifflin County coach Roger Herto, whose team converted just 12 of 47 floor shots. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, and that can be attributed to (Altoona’s) defensive pressure.

“We have the .500 rule in our county in order to make the playoffs, and for us, this game meant everything,” Herto said. “We had to win it. We threw everything out there tonight. It just didn’t happen for us. Now the focus is on next year.”

Altoona doesn’t have that issue. The Lady Lions shook off an 0-6 start and they’ve been playing solid basketball lately with the playoffs looming.

“The girls have continued to believe in what the coaching staff has been trying to teach them,” Altoona coach Miriam Colledge said. “I’m glad that all of our seniors were able to contribute tonight. They’ve represented our team well.”

Colledge had five of her seven seniors on the floor to start the game and five seniors on it at the finish. Senior forward Rachel Dibert had a huge hand in the victory with 12 points and eight rebounds.

“It’s a bittersweet ending,” Dibert said of playing her last game at the Fieldhouse. “I’m happy that we won. We started out slow tonight, but we pulled it out at the end.”

Altoona trailed 10-9 after one quarter before carrying the second period, 15-8, to take a 24-18 halftime lead.

Junior Sarah Donley and sophomore Paige Whitfield connected for 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Dibert scored a couple of field goals from underneath the basket for Altoona, which also got a pair of field goals from sophomore Madison Shetrom.

Altoona extended its advantage to 38-26 late in the third period on sophomore Amber Newberrry’s transition bucket.

After Mifflin County drew to within eight points, 38-30, on freshman Eleana Yeckley’s fourth-quarter field goal, Altoona took control of the game with a pair of Dibert field goals and another by sophomore Alayna Biesecker off an assist from Dibert in the low block that gave the Lady Lions a 44-32 advantage.

“The inside started to open up for us in the second half,” Colledge said.

Newberry and Shetrom scored eight points apiece for Altoona, which controlled the fourth quarter, 21-14.

Mifflin County was led by junior Jessa Wright’s 16 points, and 13 from Eckley. Mifflin County graduates only one senior player, guard Bryce Papp, so the future looks promising.

“As hard as it is as a coach to do, when it’s over, it’s over,” said Herto, whose team still has two regular-season games left to play. “You have to put it in the rearview mirror and move on. I love these kids, they battled hard tonight. We’re looking toward next year.”

Altoona seniors Dibert, Alison Caracciolo, Amanda Menegay, Taylor Mayhue, Natalie Knab, Brittanee Davis and Ashley Muffie played their final games at the Fieldhouse, but Colledge is hoping that all of them can enjoy some success in the playoffs.

“Tonight was senior night, and for our seniors to go out with a win like this is nice,” Colledge said. “These seniors have been playing together for a long time. They’re hard-nosed, scrappy, and they’ve set a good example for our younger players. We’ve enjoyed some pockets of success as the playoffs approach.”

MIFFLIN COUNTY (42): Papp 0 3-4 3, Eckley 4 5-7 13, Wilson 2 5-6 9, Wright 6 0-0 16, Rittenhouse 0 1-7 1, Roush 0 0-0 0, Byler 0 0-0 0. Totals – 12 14-25 42.

ALTOONA (59): Biesecker 2 0-0 4, Donley 2 0-1 6, Newberry 3 0-0 8, Dibert 6 0-0 12, Caracciolo 1 3-4 6, Shetrom 4 0-0 8, Whitfield 1 0-0 3, Menegay 2 0-0 4, Muffie 1 0-0 2, Mayhue 0 4-4 4, Knab 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals – 23 7-9 59.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Mifflin County10 8 10 14 – 42

Altoona9 15 14 21 – 59

3-point goals: Mifflin County 4 (Wright 4); Altoona 6 (Donley 2, Newberry 2, Caracciolo, Whitfield).

Records: Mifflin County (8-12); Altoona (10-11).

Officials; Terri Piatek, Vicki Markiewicz, George Figura.