Campbell, Bellwood rise above them all

By Michael Boytim

Bellwood-Antis sophomore Alli Campbell amazed people from across the state in leading the Lady Blue Devils to the PIAA Class 2A state championship in Hershey.

She already had the attention of coaches and media from the Altoona Mirror’s coverage area.

Campbell was listed on every ballot and was picked as the Altoona Mirror Girls Basketball Player of the Year by more than 100 votes over runner-up Alyssa Martinazzi of Bishop Carroll Catholic.

Juniata Valley’s Halee Smith, Altoona’s Olivia Hudson and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Halle Herrington rounded out this year’s first team.

“It’s a great honor,” Campbell said. “I know how many players work out there so hard, but winning it this year, it’s motivation to be back here next year. I’m very blessed to have received the award.”

The award has gone to a Bellwood-Antis player for four consecutive seasons. Ana Hollen won in 2015, and Karson Swogger took home the honor the past two years.

“It’s so cool knowing I was able to keep the tradition going and keep the award in Bellwood,” Campbell said. “The bar was set pretty high with Ana and Karson. All the hard work paid off.”

Campbell scored 26.4 points per game and averaged 8.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists while helping the Lady Blue Devils finish 28-3.

“I do believe she’s the best player in the state of Pennsylvania,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “She’s also certainly one of the best in the nation at her age.”

Campbell made the Mirror’s first team as a freshman when Bellwood-Antis lost to Bishop McCort in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals. That loss inspired a year’s worth of work that culminated in Bellwood’s first state championship in basketball.

“We kept that loss in the back of our minds all year,” Campbell said. “It was our main motivation to play our best and get back to that point. We worked so hard all season. It was a huge motivation all offseason.”

Campbell scored 24 of her team’s 25 second-half points in Bellwood-Antis’ 45-42 win over West Catholic for the PIAA title but quickly deflected credit to her teammates after the game.

“She’s a kid who dominates basketball games and is able to do that all the time,” Swaney said. “She’s a very unassuming kid who doesn’t like the limelight. She would much rather talk about the team, and she doesn’t want to hear about individual awards in situations where the team can come first.”

Swaney was also honored in the voting process, earning Altoona Mirror Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in a close vote over Juniata Valley’s Rachelle Hopsicker.

“I’m very humbled by it. I have great kids,” Swaney said. “They should have that award, not me. If people and other coaches believe I am that, I’m very humbled and very willingly will accept it. It’s all about the relationships with the kids, and that’s what I cherish. I’m very proud and very humbled.”

Both Campbell and Swaney, along with the rest of the Lady Blue Devils, have been enjoying the aftermath of their championship victory.

“The first couple days after we got back, we got so many congratulations from people in the community,” Campbell said. “The support from everyone is so overwhelming. We’re still getting congrats a week later. We’re getting letters and sending out thank yous. It’s been a busy week.”