State College’s Lexi Risha played her best game of the season Friday night with the District 6 Class 6A championship on the line.
Risha knocked down big shot after big shot to lead the No. 3-seed Lady Little Lions to a 42-41 win over Altoona at Penn State Altoona, bringing the district basketball title back to State College and clinching the team’s spot in the PIAA playoffs. Risha buried a 3-pointer to give State College the lead with a little more than a minute remaining and added a pair of crucial free throws in the final minute.
“She was just, I thought, very opportunistic in her shooting tonight,” State College coach Chris Leazier said. “I don’t think you’d rewind the tape and look at any shot that she took and thought, ‘Maybe she shouldn’t have taken it.’ She was really in the rhythm of our offense.”
Risha finished with a team-high 16 points as the Lady Little Lions completed their run to the district title. State College opened its postseason run with a 50-46 win over No. 2-seed Mifflin County in the semifinals before knocking off top-seeded Altoona to capture the championship. The Lady Little Lions lost twice to Mifflin County during the regular season and fell 48-38 to Altoona on Feb. 5.
“To watch our girls climb that mountain over a three-day period is just very gratifying,” Leazier said. “They should feel very good about themselves. It was them. They got together and said, ‘You know what? We know we’re good enough to win.’ And they went out and executed.”
Risha set the tone in the first quarter, scoring seven of State College’s first night points to help her team jump out to a 9-2 lead. It turned into a back-and-forth battle in the second half, and Risha came through with a tough shot to send State College into the fourth quarter with the lead.
Risha caught the ball with time winding down and hit a turnaround jump shot at the buzzer to push her team ahead 32-31, bringing a smile to Leazier’s face on the sideline. But Altoona responded in the fourth quarter and took a 39-35 lead after three straight buckets by Bridgid Fox.
State College’s Maya Bokunewicz drilled a deep jump shot to pull her team with two points with less than three minutes remaining. And Risha pushed State College ahead 40-39 with just over one minute remaining.
“Oh, I was pumped,” Risha said. “If you see in the film, I was jumping up and down. It was so cool.”
She hit a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left to give her team a 42-39 lead, and the Lady Little Lions sealed the win with a defensive stop on the game’s final possession.
They’ll now wait until March 9 for the first round of the PIAA tournament at a site and time to be determined.
“I’ve been playing with these girls for a long time,” Risha said. “We’ve been working our way up to this, and hopefully we can get a win.”