Worth the wait: Altoona girls get redemption in 2019 final
HOLLIDAYSBURG — With Altoona clinging to a two-point lead over State College and time running out in the third quarter of the District 6 Class 6A championship Thursday, Stevie Webber found the ball in her hands and drilled a 3-pointer without hesitating.
The shot set off a wild celebration on the Lady Lions’ bench that carried over into the fourth quarter.
About one minute into the final period, State College nearly forced a turnover, but the ball landed in Caranda Perea’s hands in the corner. She drilled a 3-pointer to give Altoona an eight-point lead.
Seconds later, District 6 officials Mike Hudak and William Marshall brought the championship trophy and medals into the Hollidaysburg Area High School gymnasium. They might as well have put them around the Lady Lions’ necks right there.
Altoona built its lead to as many as 15 points and eventually settled for a 50-38 victory to avenge a loss in last year’s title game.
“You have to give (Webber) all the credit for getting us started,” Altoona coach Miriam Colledge said. “Kudos to her. That was the momentum swing that we needed. It was neck and neck pretty much at that point. When she hit that, it changed things for us. We fed off that, and it gave us the energy we needed for the final quarter. We really came alive.”
State College took a 26-23 lead on a Maya Bokunewicz jumper midway through the third quarter before Altoona went on a 14-0 run to seize control of the game.
Olivia Hudson, who missed time this year recovering from a torn ACL this summer and a concussion after she returned, led the Lady Lions with 17 points.
“It is the best feeling ever, honestly,” Hudson said. “We’ve been waiting for a year to come back and win this game. Our team worked so hard, and it definitely helped me coming back through everything knowing we needed to get this win. I’m so happy.”
Hudson, who missed plenty of time in last year’s final due to foul trouble, ran into foul trouble again Thursday. She scored seven first-quarter points before picking up her second foul. Rather than keep her out, Colledge went back to her to start the second quarter. She picked up a third foul just before the half and her fourth early in the final quarter, but Altoona left her on the court.
“I had to step back a little bit, but I wanted to be in there for me and my team,” Hudson said. “It’s a great feeling, because we don’t get another chance.”
With Altoona up by 10 and 3:38 to play, Hudson crashed into State College’s Lexi Risha. Risha attempted to take a charge, but a block was called and the Lady Lions scored the next five points to put the game away.
“(Hudson has) been working so hard,” Colledge said. “She was in the gym on the day we had off of school. She was working hard. So much was taken from her earlier this year, and she knows this is her last opportunity, so she’s worked incredibly hard. I was just euphoric for her.”
Perea added 14 points, and Adalyn Cherry scored 10 for Altoona.
“Last year’s game was heavily on our minds,” Colledge said. “We lost it at the end. The girls were resolved to get it back, and they came out strong in the second half. It was a great basketball game and a great atmosphere.”
State College concentrated on shutting down Altoona forward Bridgid Fox by collapsing on her each time she touched the ball. That strategy worked well when the Lady Little Lions won convincingly at State College earlier this season.
The difference Thursday was a healthy Hudson, according to State College coach Chris Leazier.
“Olivia started getting downhill on us,” Leazier said. “If you can’t keep Altoona out of the things they do well, then you’re going to get beat. It’s just that simple.”
Leazier said that when Altoona’s secondary players begin to hit shots, the Lady Lions are tough to beat. He then recalled Webber’s 3-pointer.
“That was kind of the game,” Leazier said.
Altoona will play the fourth-place finisher from the WPIAL in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs while State College, which was led by Bokunewicz’s 15 points, will have to win a subregional playoff game against the District 8-10 champion to make the state tournament.
“They did a great job on Fox and Perea, but when Liv is around and Cherry is hitting, that’s the catalyst we need,” Colledge said. “Webber hit that big one, and Cherry getting to 10 was huge. It took the pressure off the other girls.”
ALTOONA (50): Rupert 0 0-0 0 Cherry 3 2-4 10, Hudson 5 6-10 17, Perea 6 1-1 14, Fox 3 0-1 6, Webber 1 0-0 3, Corbin 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 9-16 50.
STATE COLLEGE (38): Bokunewicz 5 2-2 15, Leazier 5 0-0 11, Lingafelter 0 0-0 0, Love 1 0-0 2, Brannon 2 1-2 5, Risha 2 1-2 5, Gregg 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 4-6 38.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 13 6 12 19 — 50
State College 12 8 6 12 — 38
3-point goals: Altoona 5 (Cherry 2, Hudson, Perea, Webber); State College 4 (Bokunewicz 3, Leazier).
Records: Altoona (16-7); State College (16-6).
Officials: Sue Kovensky, Tyler Fink, Dave Pray.