Swogger caps off record-setting career
By Philip Cmor
In the Swogger family, basketball rules.
Karson Swogger most assuredly would be the queen.
“I don’t know even where to begin,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said when asked to discuss what Swogger meant to him and his Lady Blue Devil program after B-A’s season concluded with a loss to Bishop McCort in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals. “I always said that in my eyes Ashley Norris and Sarah Grazier held a special place for me, and I added Ana Hollen to that, because I thought she was on that same level. I can certainly say so does Karson. She’s an incredible competitor. She just works at her game so much.”
The toil and time certainly showed for the 5-foot-8 guard. She is leaving the area scholastic scene after shattering the Blair County record for career scoring and set a very high bar for anyone following in her footsteps.
For her efforts, Swogger has been voted the Altoona Mirror High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year. It is the second straight season Swogger has claimed the honor, something only accomplished before by Bishop Carroll’s Sue Panek, Williamsburg’s Abby Hoy and Bishop Guilfoyle’s Alli Williams since the award was established in 1983-84.
Like Panek, Hoy and Williams, Swogger will be taking her talents to a Division I college next season, having signed with Saint Francis University.
Swogger totaled an unprecedented 523 points in a poll of area coaches, Mirror staff members and Mirror correspondents. Swogger is joined on the first team by Bishop Guilfoyle’s Lili Benzel, Tyrone Area’s Kasey Engle, Bishop Carroll’s Alyssa Martinazzi and Bellwood’s Alli Campbell — Benzel, Engle and Martinazzi are returning first-teamers, while Campbell is just a freshman.
Rachelle Hopsicker was voted coach of the year after taking Juniata Valley to the PIAA Class 1A championship game.
Benzel finished second in the player of the year balloting while making her fourth appearance on the first team. Bedford’s Allison Shuke, Juniata Valley’s Halee Smith, Williamsburg’s Laura Barhacs, Philipsburg-Osceola’s Halle Herrington and Altoona’s Paige Whitfield comprised the second team in what might have been one of the deepest collections of talent across the Mirror coverage area in decades.
Swogger, though, stood head and shoulders above them all. She averaged 26.7 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.5 assists, making 78 of 213 3-pointers and going 168-of-205 at the foul line.
“She’s a legitimate threat every time she touches the ball,” Swaney said after a game early in the year.
Swogger usually saved her best for the biggest stages. She topped 30 points in Bellwood’s first two PIAA playoff games this winter, leading the Lady Devils to the state final four for the first time since 1990. At the Jaffa Shrine Tournament at the start of the year, she fired in 42 in a 10-point win over Juniata Valley.
“Karson causes trouble for us all the time. She seems to know how to get to the basket,” said Hopsicker, who played Division I basketball herself at Fordham.
Swogger’s biggest accomplishment, though, came in January, when she broke Lacey Claar’s 10-year-old county scoring record of 2,187 in a win against Williamsburg. Swogger concluded her career with 2,520 points.
“Just to be mentioned with the names that have been through Blair County — Halee Adams, Alli Williams — it’s just unbelievable,” Swogger said after breaking the record. “I just can’t be more thankful than I am.”
Swogger, though, seemed born for this. She is the granddaughter of Hall of Fame coach John Swogger, and her family tree is filled with successful players.
“He’d be proud. People always come up to me and tell me that he would be. He was a huge impact on my life,” Swogger said.
Hopsicker was a run-away winner for the coaching award. She guided a Valley team that started three juniors and two freshmen to its first-ever state final visit and a 24-6 record. The Lady Hornets were balanced on offense and tenacious on defense and defeated three district champions to reach Hershey.