5A rulers: Lady Tigers defend title by dominating Obama
Deanna Jubeck is one coach among a large camp of coaches who believe that defending a championship is much more difficult than winning a first one.
“It’s always tough to defend,” Jubeck, the Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers’ coach, said Monday night. “There’s pressure on you, and you have a bull’s-eye on your back.”
Rising above that pressure, Hollidaysburg won its second straight District 6 Class 5A title by dispatching of Obama Academy of Pittsburgh, 40-26 in Monday’s championship game at Penn State Altoona’s Adler Arena.
It wasn’t an offensive showcase, but Hollidaysburg (13-10) did what it needed to do to win the gold medal and beat Obama in the title game for the second year in a row.
“We’re just happy to come out with the victory,” Jubeck said. “Kudos to all 15 kids on the team for working so hard. This was one of our goals — to win districts and get into March.”
Hollidaysburg will be playing the third-place finisher out of District 7 — either Chartiers Valley, Penn Hills, Oakland Catholic or Thomas Jefferson — in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs on Saturday, March 9 at a site and time to be determined.
Monday’s second consecutive district championship left the close-knit Hollidaysburg team ecstatic.
“I think it’s very memorable,” said Sierra McClain, Hollidaysburg’s two-year starting senior guard, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in the title game. “This team is close, and we’ve bonded very well. I’ll definitely remember the past two years. ”
So will senior guard Hannah Snyder.
“It’s great,” Snyder, who also scored nine points Monday, said of the team’s title defense. “It feels great to do it with these guys.”
Senior forward Janessa Goins, who transferred to Hollidaysburg for her senior year after attending Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, W.Va., was glad to join the party.
“I wasn’t here last year, but it feels amazing,” said Goins, who scored five points and collected a game-high 11 rebounds. “It feels good to do this with my team.”
Hollidaysburg broke out to an 18-5 halftime lead before Obama (16-9) made things interesting in the third quarter.
An eight-point Hollidaysburg second-quarter run that featured Snyder’s steal and layup, along with a pair of consecutive 3-pointers by McClain and Goins, expanded the Lady Tigers’ lead from 10-4 after one period to 18-4. Obama scored just one point in the second quarter, and the slow start was dooming, in the opinion of Obama’s acting head coach, Rod Rutherford.
Rutherford, 38, — a former starting quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh who later played in the National Football League for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers — is in his first season as an assistant coach on the Obama staff.
He served as the team’s acting head coach Monday while regular head coach Monique McCoy was attending to a family emergency.
“We started off slow in the first half, missed a lot of layups and missed foul shots,” Rutherford said. “In the second half, we played a little more aggressively, but the 13-point deficit at halftime definitely hurt us.”
Even so, Obama sliced the Hollidaysburg lead to 25-19 on a 3-point shot from the left corner by junior guard Sophie Levitt late in the third quarter.
Hollidaysburg responded with two free throws and a layup by sophomore guard Alyssa Bell to carry a 29-19 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We played very well in the first half, then had a lull early in the third quarter, but toward the end of the quarter, we started picking it up and doing what we needed to do,” said Bell, who tied Obama senior guard Talia Mitchell for game scoring honors with 10 points.
Hollidaysburg continued to surge in the fourth quarter, outscoring Obama, 10-4 to build a 39-23 lead and salt the game away.
A six-point run that started with a breakaway layup by junior guard Allison Hileman — the Lady Tigers’ leadng scorer this year — and two free throws apiece by Snyder and McClain, helped Hollidaysburg cruise to the finish line.
The Lady Tigers will now look toward the state playoffs.
“We’ve got a game in March,” Jubeck said. “We’ll take a couple days off and refocus. Anything after this will be even sweeter.”
OBAMA ACADEMY (26): Jetter 0 0-0 0, Hairston 2 1-4 5, Mitchell 5 0-2 10, S. Perkins 0 2-4 2, J. Perkins 0 0-0 0, Levitt 1 0-0 3, Creighton 1 2-4 4, Blackwell 0 0-1 0, Johnson 1 0-0 2. Totals — 10 5-15 26.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (40): McClain 3 2-2 9, Hileman 3 0-0 7, Snyder 1 7-13 9, Goins 1 2-2 5, Bell 3 4-6 10, Smith 0 0-0 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, O’Neill 0 0-0 0. Totals — 11 15-23 40.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Obama Academy 4 1 14 7 — 26
Hollidaysburg 10 8 11 11 — 40
3-point goals: Obama Academy 1 (Levitt); Hollidaysburg 3 (McClain, Hileman, Goins).
Records: Obama Academy (16-9); Hollidaysburg (13-10).
Officials: Terri Piatek, Vicki Markiewicz, George Misiura.