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Young Lady Lions put up fight in defeat

By John Hartsock

jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

Whether a basketball team is battle-tested in varsity competition or has a roster dotted with several young players who are seeking to gain valuable experience, participating in an offseason league like the Building II Rec Hall Summer Basketball League is a win-win situation for everybody.

That was the case all season, as well as on Wednesday night, when a senior-laden Bedford team erased a 15-point halftime deficit, shook off a successful 3-point buzzer-beating shot by a young Altoona squad that forced overtime, and won the Building II High School Girls Basketball League championship by carving out a 60-54 win.

Incoming senior veteran Natalie Lippincott led all scorers with 29 points for Bedford, including a field goal and three free throws in the three-minute overtime session that Bedford carried, 8-2, after Altoona had forced the extra session with a 30-foot desperation 3-pointer by incoming freshman Lanie Wilt just before the final buzzer in regulation tied the score, 52-52.

Most of the players on Altoona’s Building II League team are young underclassmen with either limited or no previous varsity playing time. Two of them, Wilt and Melana Ayers — who led Altoona with 22 points Wednesday – were eighth-graders last year.

The Building II league is a great platform for player development and growth.

“The future for the Altoona Lady Lions basketball program is bright,” said Ken Macklin, who was the Altoona team’s head coach in Building II competition this summer. “Any time that you have incoming freshmen making the kinds of contributions that they were making tonight, you know that the well has not run dry.

“And win, lose or draw, any time that your players can be involved in a game and a league like this, it provides something valuable that they can take from it,” Macklin added.

Blaine Shuke, who is the Bedford High School varsity girls basketball coach and also served as the Bedford team’s head coach in the Building II League, echoed Macklin’s sentiments.

“This has been an enjoyable summer league,” Shuke said. “We appreciate what the Building II has provided for us. Our girls have continued to learn and grow as basketball players through competing in this league.”

Bedford finished the season with a 7-1 record, with its only loss being a regular-season setback to Altoona, which finished league play 8-1.

Altoona held a 30-18 halftime lead and had a comfortable 38-23 well into the second half after Ayers had completed a traditional 3-point play.

Lippincott’s 3-point shot and layup bookended a 10-point run that pulled Bedford back to within, 38-33 before Bedford continued the surge to score 12 of the next 15 points and take a 50-46 lead on Lippincott’s two free throws with 16 seconds left in regulation.

Altoona continued to put up a good battle itself, though, and forced the overtime period.

Incoming junior Abbie Hercane’s 3-pointer from the right corner pulled Altoona to within 50-49. After Josie Shuke’s two free throws with two seconds left put Bedford up, 52-49, Altoona’s Wilt put up her 30-footer that went through the net just before the regulation buzzer to tie the game, 52-52.

Harley McGurk’s field goal gave Altoona a 54-52 lead to open the overtime session, but Bedford reeled off the last eight points of the game to secure the win.

Incoming senior Sydney Taracatac – who scored 17 points for Bedford – tied the game, 54-54 with a layin bucket, and Lippincott’s driving field goal put Bedford ahead to stay, 56-54.

Shuke hit one of two free throws, and Lippincott made three of four foul shots down the stretch,to set the final score.

“Hats off to Bedford,” Macklin said. “They outscrapped us, and they made more free throws (18 to 7) than we did tonight.”

BEDFORD (60): Lippincott 10 7-11 29, Taracatac 5 7-10 17, Shuke 2 4-6 8, Becker 0 0-0 0, Martz 3 0-1 6, Thomas 0 0-0 0. Totals – 20 18-28 60.

ALTOONA (54): Ayers 8 3-5 22, Herncane 2 0-0 5, McGurk 4 0-1 8, Wilt 2 2-4 7, Krull 4 0-0 8, Hollabaugh 0 2-2 2, Mielnik 1 0-0 2, Knorr 0 0-0 0. Totals – 21 7-12 54.

Halftime: Altoona, 30-18. End of regulation: Tied, 52-52.

3-point goals: Bedford 2 (Lippicott 2); Altoona 5 (Ayers 3, Wilt, Herncane).

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