Lady Lions escape Norwin, improve their mark to 13-1

Photo for the Mirror by Chuck Meyers Altoona’s Olivia Hudson shoots in the lane over Norwin defenders Lucy Race (4) and Olivia Gribble (33) on Saturday afternoon.

The Altoona Area High School girls basketball team has hopes of making a long run in the PIAA state playoffs this season.

Ranked No. 4 in the state and sporting a 13-1 record, the Lady Lions haven’t faced many difficult challenges so far.

They did Saturday.

A small, scrappy Norwin team came to town on a frigid afternoon and pushed the Lady Lions to the limit before falling, 53-52, when a last-second shot fell short.

“That was a tough one,” Altoona coach Miriam Colledge said. “Norwin is always tough.

“This was good for us. It was like a playoff atmosphere and nice to be challenged.”

The Lady Knights sported no 6-footers and an unimpressive 5-6 record but proved to be a tough out. Four different players combined for 10 3-pointers as the Knights refused to go away.

“They were driving and kicking and gave us trouble,” Colledge offered.

Although Altoona led by as many as eight (29-21) late in the second quarter and then by eight (41-33) late in the third, Norwin kept fighting back.

“That’s been the staple of our season,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We’ve had a lot of close ones … I guess the coach has to learn how to finish.”

Norwin took a 45-43 lead on Lucy Race’s trey early in the fourth quarter, but Altoona answered. Olivia Hudson drove for a pair of buckets, sandwiched around two Bridgid Fox free throws, to give the Lions a 49-45 edge with four minutes left.

After Norwin’s Jayla Wehner knocked down a trey, buckets by Hudson and Fox made it 53-48 Altoona, with 2:22 remaining.

There was still no quit in Norwin. Jaylene Warman scored in close, and Wehner’s steal and subsequent layup pulled the visitors to within 53-52 with 25 seconds to go.

Norwin grabbed two more Altoona turnovers in the waning seconds but couldn’t come up with the game-winning basket.

The Knights stole an inbound pass with five seconds left, and Danielle Rosso was fouled with :02.7 on the clock. Still not in the bonus, Norwin inbounded the ball to Race, whose shot from the key misfired as time expired.

“They came in here ready to play,” Colledge said. “We knew they had some good shooters, and they were clicking on all cylinders.”

“We’re fortunate to have a deep group of girls who can contribute,” noted Brozeski, whose Knights received 13 points from Magen Polczynski and 13 each from Race and Wehner.

Altoona, which had a definite size advantage, got 15 points from Hudson and 14 from Fox, both juniors. Sophomore Caranda Perea came off the bench to score 13, 11 in the second quarter.

Colledge said Perea was suffering from a non-basketball-related injury and, even with the 6-2 sophomore hurting, the Lady Lions stuck to their six-player rotation.

“That’s our system,” Colledge said. “That’s what we have.

“I told the kids adversity is good. If you’re going to make a run in the playoffs, you’re going to have games like this.”

“We knew coming in Altoona has a quality program,” Brozeski said. “We saw them at the North Allegheny Tournament and knew they had athletes and would be well-prepared.”

Game notes: Lady Lions visit Penn Trafford on Tuesday before hosting North Allegheny next Friday. … NA is the state’s top-ranked team in Class 6A and handed Altoona its only loss, 45-44, on Dec. 10 in Pittsburgh.

NORWIN (52): M. Polczynski 4 2-2 13, Kolesar 0 1-2 1, Race 4 0-0 11, Wehner 4 1-2 11, Gribble 2 0-0 6, Warman 1 2-4 4, Nicholes 0 0-0 0, Rosso 1 0-0 2, Brozeski 2 0-0 4. Totals — 18 6-10 52.

ALTOONA (53): Fox 4 6-8 14, Lear 2 0-0 4, Stevens 0 0-0 0, Hudson 6 3-4 15, Burke 3 1-1 7, Perea 5 0-0 13. Totals — 20 10-13 53.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Norwin 15 16 11 10 — 52

Altoona 13 19 9 12 — 53

3-point goals: Norwin 10 (Polczynski 3, Race 3, Wehner 2, Gribble 2); Altoona 3 (Perea 3).

Officials: Anthony Brezovec, Charles (Skip) Dry, Ray Wotkowski.

Records: Norwin (5-7); Altoona (13-1).

JV: Norwin, 52-36. High scorer–Cherry, A, 9.

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