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Miller leads Lady Tigers to victory

LORETTO — Hollidaysburg Area High School Lady Tigers sophomore Marin Miller is a stickler for practicing free throws.

“I make about 500 a day, five to seven days each week,” the 5-foot-1 point guard said Saturday afternoon.

In Miller’s case, it’s truly a matter of practice making perfect. Miller scored a game-high 32 points Saturday, converting 13 of her 14 free throws — including 10 of 11 in the fourth quarter — as Hollidaysburg topped Portage, 60-48 at Saint Francis University’s DeGol Arena in a matchup of what are currently the two top ranked District 6 Class 5A girls teams.

Miller’s 10 successful foul shots hit nothing but net in the fourth quarter as Hollidaysburg (12-4) carried the period, 23-14 to break open a tight game.

Hollidaysburg made 22 of its 26 free throws in the game, including 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter.

“I think it definitely helped,” Miller said. “We were all getting fouls, and I think it kind of slowed the game down a little bit.”

Miller took control of the game by scoring over half of her team’s points.

“She’s our point guard, she’s our leader on the court,” Hollidaysburg coach Deanna Jubeck said of Miller. “She’s a coach on the court for us. We have to have the ball in her hands in situations like this.”

Clinging to a 42-39 lead early in the fourth quarter, Hollidaysburg cemented its victory by reeling off the next next seven points and 10 of the next 12 to take a 52-41 edge.

Miller hit six consecutive free throws to put the Lady Tigers up, 48-39, before freshman forward Ali Hatajik converted one of two.

After Portage sophomore Maryn Swank made a field goal, Hollidaysburg senior Morgan O’Neill connected on a 3-point shot from the left corner to give Hollidaysburg the 52-41 advantage.

“Morgan hit a big ‘3’ there,” Jubeck said of O’Neill. “Our kids played well defensively, and we were able to hit some buckets in transition.”

Portage senior Kara Dividock converted a trey to pull the Lady Mustangs to within 52-44, but Miller scored a driving layup and then hit a free throw to put Hollidaysburg ahead, 55-44.

After a Riskus field goal pulled Portage to within 55-46, Hatajik — who scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds — hit a short jumper to put Hollidaysburg up, 57-46.

Miller was then fouled on two separate occasions and converted three of four shots to give Hollidaysburg a 60-46 lead with time winding down.

Riskus led Portage (14-2) with 15 points, but the Lady Mustangs made only 15 of 26 free throws in the game — and just two of eight in the fourth quarter — while converting only 13 of 55 total floor shots.

“We knew this would be a battle — Hollidaysburg is a very good team,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “They have playmakers, speed, and size where they need it. They create a tough matchup. We had our chances — a lot of it came down to the free throw line and finishing layups.

“Both teams were shooting free throws, but they made theirs, and we didn’t,” Hudak added. “I believe that was the difference — their ability to capitalize at the foul line.”

So did Jubeck.

“Free throws were important in a game like this,” Jubeck said. “The kids stepped up, they were confident, and they were able to knock some down.”

As the top two teams in District 6 Class 5A, the teams could likely meet again when the district championship game rolls around.

“Our goal is to see them again in about a month from now, to get another shot at them,” Hudak said.

Miller felt that Saturday’s game was a statement effort for Hollidaysburg.

“I think it sends a good message to the rest of the teams in our district — that we’re a strong team to compete with,” Miller said.

Game notes: Hollidaysburg, which converted 17 of 43 floor shots, visits Mars of the WPIAL on Thursday night … Portage, which outrebounded the Lady Tigers, 37-26, with Dividock grabbing eight, hosts Conemaugh Township in a WestPAC conference game on Tuesday night.

HOLLIDAYSBURG (60): Hileman 2 0-0 6, O’Neill 1 2-2 5, Bell 0 2-2 2, Miller 9 13-14 32, Hatajik 4 2-4 10, S. Lear 0 2-2 2, Merriman 0 1-2 1, Stitt 1 0-0 2, Snyder 0 0-0 0. Totals — 17 22-26 60.

PORTAGE (48): Riskus 6 0-3 15, Dividock 1 4-6 7, Shaffer 0 2-2 2, Kissell 1 2-4 4, Sossong 1 4-4 7, Sease 0 1-2 1, Giordano 0 0-0 0, Swank 2 0-0 5, Hudak 2 2-5 7, Wozniak 0 0-0 0, Bartoletti 0 0-0 0, Alexander 0 0-0 0. Totals — 13 15-26 48.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Hollidaysburg 13 12 12 23 — 60

Portage 14 7 13 14 — 48

3-point goals: Hollidaysburg 4 (Hileman 2, Miller, O’Neill); Portage 7 (Riskus 3, Dividock, Sossong, Swank, Hudak).

Records: Hollidaysburg (12-4); Portage (14-2).

Officials: Barry Rossman, Scott Johnson, Mark Dwyer.

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