Swogger shows off her all-around game

The heir to a proud family tradition in basketball – her grandfather, the late John Swogger, was a Hall of Fame scholastic coach – Karson Swogger always has something to prove when she takes the court.

“A lot of people know my pap. Basketball runs in the family, and everybody has high standards because of the last name,” the younger Swogger said. “I really strive to keep the name going. I play every game for him.”

John Swogger certainly would be proud of what his granddaughter accomplished in 2015-16.

Karson Swogger turned in one of the greatest seasons ever for an area prep girl, averaging an amazing 28.9 points per game and breaking Bellwood-Antis’ program career scoring mark as a junior in leading the team to an Inter-County Conference championship.

In recognition of her performance, Swogger was voted the Altoona Mirror High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year. The team was arrived at through a poll of Mirror staff and correspondents and area coaches.

Swogger was a run-away winner for the honor. Joining her on the first team are Tyrone’s Kasey Engle, Bishop Guilfoyle’s Lili Benzel, Central Cambria’s Taylor Boring and Bishop Carroll’s Alyssa Martinazzi. Boring is the lone senior in the group; Benzel and Engle, like Swogger, are juniors, and Martinazzi is a sophomore.

In the coach of the year voting, Carroll’s Bob Gongloff edged Central Cambria’s Brittany Sedlock after guiding the Lady Huskies to a District 6 Class A title.

“I set a lot of goals for myself. I felt that once (the 2014-15) season ended, I had to step up,” Swogger said, referring to the Lady Blue Devils’ run to the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals her sophomore season. “I felt like my job was to get everybody prepared and to lead the team.”

She did that by making 42 percent from the floor, 34 percent from 3-point land and 80 percent at the foul line, where she got to 246 times. She also averaged 5.1 steals, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists as Bellwood, with just one returning starter, went 20-5.

“She’s a great player, so, like any other very good player we’ve ever coached, you need to do your homework with her. She expects complete game plans. She expects to take a big role in any game plan you ever have, because she wants the challenge,” B-A coach Jim Swaney said. “She’s not only our catalyst on offense, and, without her, we wouldn’t be a good offensive basketball team, she is as good on the defensive end, especially her on-ball defense. She’s the type of kid that, if we play Tyrone, she wants to guard Kasey Engle. If we play BG, she wants to guard Lili Benzel.”

Swogger scored her 722 points in 728 minutes of action, and she’ll head into her senior season with 1,718 points, putting her in position to set the Blair County career scoring mark so long as she stays healthy.

Swogger is being recruited by Saint Francis and Patriot League-level colleges right now. She’s hoping to give them something more to see as a senior: The Lady Devils, despite winning a fourth-consecutive Inter-County Conference championship, were eliminated from the District 6 Class AA playoffs in the quarterfinals, knocking them out of contention for states.

She wants to take her team even further next year, and she thinks she can be a better player, too.

“I always just try to work on everything, honestly, just to keep my game even all-around,” Swogger said. “I don’t want to just be a 3-point shooter or only can drive.”

Gongloff took a young Carroll team to the Laurel Highlands Conference championship game and the third round of Class A interdistricts, relying on defense and unselfishness.

“I think just everything fell into place from last year to this year,” said Gongloff, who returned to Carroll in 2014 after a nine-year hiatus. “It was a new system last year. This year, the girls bought into it, and they worked hard at what they did.”