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Sluggish start dooms Altoona

The Altoona Lady Lions couldn’t seem to find any semblance of an offensive rhythm in the first half Monday night.

And the Cumberland Valley Lady Eagles had an answer for every one of Altoona’s second-half rallies to squash any hopes of a comeback.

In a battle of two of the top-tier teams in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Conference, Cumberland Valley set the tone early and controlled the game from start to finish with a 53-40 win over Altoona at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.

“We just never got going,” Altoona head coach Chris Fleegle said. “Even when we were scoring points, it just didn’t feel smooth. Nothing was easy and that’s a credit to Cumberland Valley, they’re obviously a very good defensive team.”

Altoona dropped to 5-6 overall and 4-3 in the conference, while Cumberland Valley hiked its record to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the conference.

“The girls played a really good team defensive game,” Cumberland Valley head coach Bill Wolf said. “We’re very happy to come up here, play well and get a win.”

For the first few minutes of the first quarter, both teams showed early signs of an offensive showcase. Altoona’s Brooklynn Rupert drained a corner 3-pointer for a quick 3-0 lead. CV answered with a long jumper from Samantha Murphy and a 3 from point guard Kylie Holcomb to take a 5-3 edge, before Altoona’s Adalynn Cherry made a layup to knot the score at 5-5.

Murphy and Altoona’s Stevie Webber exchanged layups, tying the score at 7-7 at the 5:23 mark, before Holcomb drilled a pair of 3-pointers as CV closed the quarter with a 13-7 advantage.

Neither team could muster much offense to start the second quarter until Altoona’s Cherry converted a pair of free throws to slice the lead to four (13-9) with 5:32 to go before halftime.

Shortly after, the wheels came off for the Lady Lions.

CV sophomore forward Dejah Hill scored six straight points — a putback and a free throw, and then a layup and a free throw – followed by two free throws from Hannah Sauve to extend the lead to 21-9 at the half.

“In the first quarter we had open looks that we typically make and they just weren’t falling,” Fleegle said, “and then we were losing people on the defensive end and giving up easy shots. When you’re not making shots and not defending the ball as well as we normally do, that’s not a good recipe for success.”

Altoona did not convert a field goal in the second quarter.

“Kylie Holcomb got us off to a real good start, she hit three 3s to kind of give us a kick start offensively,”Wolf said. “To hold a team like Altoona to only nine points (in the first half) is pretty good.”

The Lady Lions came out of halftime with a quick score, a driving layup from Caranda Perea, but CV answered with a floater from Julie Jekot – her first points of the game – to cling to a 12-point lead (23-11). Webber knocked down a 3-pointer at the six-minute mark to cut the lead to 23-14, but CV answered again. This time with a 7-0 run that ballooned the lead to 30-14 and forced an Altoona timeout with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

Altoona’s Webber hit a pair of 3s, sandwiched around a Jekot jumper and free throw, as CV held a 33-20 edge. Perea was fouled attempting a 3-pointer with less than a second on the clock and hit all 3 free throws as CV led 37-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

“Every time we pushed a little bit, they answered, and that’s what good teams do,” Fleegle said.

CV essentially put the game out of reach early in the fourth with an 8-0 run and a 45-24 lead that forced another Altoona timeout at 5:31.

Webber, who had four 3-pointers, and Cherry led Altoona with 14 points apiece. Cherry had a team-high seven rebounds, while Perea had six rebounds and four blocks.

Jekot, a junior guard and a verbal commit to Division I LaSalle, led Cumberland Valley with 14 points, all in the second half, while Holcomb added 11 points, and Sauve had nine.

“Did she have any points at halftime?” asked Wolf. “To be honest, she was focused on Perea (in the first half). We had her guarding Perea so a lot of her focus and energy was on defending Perea. She didn’t score that first half and then came out in the second half and got into the act offensively.”

Both teams continue conference play later this week as Altoona travels to Carlisle on Wednesday and Cumberland Valley visits Mifflin County on Friday.

“We need to go on to our next game and compete against Carlisle,” Fleegle said. “We just need to improve every quarter we step on the floor.”

CUMBERLAND VALLEY (53): Miller 3 1-1 7, Jekot 5 3-3 14, Holcomb 4 0-0 11, Sauve 3 2-2 9, Murphy 1 0-1 2, Hill 2 2-2 6, Campbell 1 0-0 2, Krause 0 0-0 0, Basehore 0 0-0 0, Phillips 1 0-0 2, Keefe 0 0-1 0, Burns 0 0-0 0. Totals – 20 8-10 53.

ALTOONA (40): Rupert 1 0-0 3, Webber 5 0-0 14, Cherry 5 3-3 14, Corbin 1 0-0 3, Perea 1 3-3 5, Gibson 0 0-0 0, Barron 0 0-0 0, Cree 0 0-0 0, Burchfield 0 1-2 1, Skelley 0 0-0 0, Dull 0 0-0 0. Totals – 13 7-8 40.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Cumberland Valley 13 8 16 16 — 53

Altoona 7 2 15 16 — 40

3-point goals – Cumberland Valley 5 (Jekot, Holcomb 3, Sauve); Altoona 7 (Rupert, Webber 4, Cherry, Corbin).

Records: Cumberland Valley (8-2, 6-1); Altoona (5-6, 4-3).

Officials: Mike Andrews, Randy Burkett, Curtis Miller.

JV: Cumberland Valley, 32-22. High scorers: Parris Burns, CV, 9; Nevaeh Gibson, A, 7.

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