Lady Lions get 1 seed
By Jon Fleck
For the Mirror
Mifflin County and Altoona entered Saturday’s game one-two, respectively, in the District 6 Class 6A rankings, but the Lady Lions were close enough that a win would clinch the top spot entering the playoffs.
Altoona broke open a close game late in the third quarter with a 15-1 run and held on for a 53-49 win at the AAHS Fieldhouse to secure a spot in the district championship game.
“We told them this team is not going to lie down for you. It’s for the number one seed. It’s really going to be a battle, and it was,” Altoona coach Miriam Colledge said. “People had to step up. It was another playoff caliber basketball game. Tight the whole way. They fought us tooth and nail down to the very end.”
Olivia Hudson scored a team-high 17 points, and Bridgid Fox had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jess Stevens scored in double digits as well with 11 points.
“The difference in the game was (Hudson). Their game revolves around her. As a coach you’re a fool if you don’t make it revolve around her,” MC coach Roger Herto said. “I told her going through the line after the game that she’s a difference maker. She’s athletic, but not just that. She has good judgment. She’s a good, solid player.”
After Fox scored on a driving layup midway through the third, Altoona had a 33-30 lead, but Rylie Rittenhouse made 1-of-2 foul shots and scored on a driving layup of her own to tie the game.
Molly Wagoner then blocked a Hudson shot on the defensive end, starting a fast break that ended with Eleana Eckley’s three-point play.
Altoona promptly called timeout to slow the Lady Huskies’ momentum and make a key change.
“We moved some people around and went to our two post players more,” Colledge said. “That started to open the game up for us. Switching up what we were doing was the momentum-changer for us.”
Seniors Jess Stevens, Kayley Burke and Shaina Lear were honored before the game, and all three made big plays during the decisive run.
After Lear made a nice pass out of the high post to Fox for an easy lay-in, and Hudson swished a 3-pointer, Stevens closed out the third quarter with a layup following a Fox miss on the fast break.
“Bridgid had some great layups. I was just following that one in case she missed,” the senior point guard said.
Burke’s layup off another assist from Lear out of the high post to open the fourth quarter continued the run. After Fox scored again down low, the Altoona bench exploded when Stevens drained a long 3-pointer for a 10-point lead with 5:44 left.
“It’s so exciting to have my coaches and teammates cheer me on. It’s an amazing feeling,” Stevens said.
Eckley led Mifflin County with a game-high 19 points, and Rittenhouse added 15.
“You can’t discount anyone on their team,” Colledge said. “The two freshmen (Wagoner and Emma Yeager) are nice players for them. Eckley’s really hard to stop. We try to plan for her, but no matter what you do, she just gets her points. Rittenhouse played very well for them.”
The loss dropped Mifflin County into the district semifinal game against State College. The winner of that game plays Altoona for district gold.
“Everything we got we really had to fight for. I’m proud of that, but the bottom line is we didn’t get a win. Our kids feel like we could do that. For us right now, it’s making sure we have another opportunity to play this team,” Herto said. “We’ll be better the next time. It’s the first time we’ve seen ’em. We’ll have a slightly different approach. We found out a couple things about some of their other players I didn’t know as much about.”
Altoona closes out the regular season Tuesday at home against Williamsport. The cutoff point to accumulate points in the district standings is Monday, so the outcome has no bearing on the rankings.
Mifflin County’s regular season ended at 17-5.
MIFFLIN COUNTY (49): Eckley 8 3-3 19, Aumiller 1 3-4 5, R. Rittenhouse 6 2-5 15, Wagoner 3 0-0 6, Yeager 2 0-0 4, Mahigel 0 0-0 0, Harshbarger 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 8-12 49.
ALTOONA (53): Lear 3 0-0 7, Stevens 3 3-5 11, Hudson 7 1-2 17, Burke 2 0-0 4, Fox 5 4-6 14, Wilson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 8-13 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mifflin County 15 11 10 13 — 49
Altoona 17 10 13 13 — 53
3-point goals: Mifflin County 1 (Rittenhouse); Altoona 5 (Lear, Stevens 2, Hudson 2).
Records: Mifflin County (17-5); Altoona (18-3).
JV: Altoona, 50-35. High scorers–Cherry, A, 17; H. Rittenhouse, MC, 11.