For a half, and even a few minutes into the third quarter, the State College girls’ basketball team looked to be in good shape.
Then it all began to fall apart for the Lady Little Lions.
Altoona put on a big run early in the third quarter and into the fourth to knock out State College 61-53 Wednesday night in the North Gym.
“The kids didn’t go out focused,” State College coach Bethany Irwin said. “They tried to do things on their own, and that’s not the way we run things. It was very sloppy, disappointing.”
Darby Lee scored 12 of her 16 points in the third quarter for the Lady Mountain Lions (6-4), Kaycie Reffner led the team with 17 points and Lauren Donley netted all of her 15 points from 3-point range.
Kyla Irwin’s 25 points and 13 rebounds led the Lady Little Lions (9-4) while Jenna Altomare added 11 points and Bridget King tossed in 10.
“We started rushing, not running plays and taking bad shots,” was the summary from Altomare after a 22-20 lead at the break and a 28-24 lead three minutes into the third quarter quickly disappeared.
That was when Reffner drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to ignite a 23-6 run for Altoona. The burst ended with a Donley 3-pointer early in the fourth. In between, Lee scored 10 more of her points.
“Second half she took off on us,” Altomare said of Lee. “We went to a box-and-one on her, which seemed to help a little bit on her, but we still had to watch out for the outside shooting.”
The performance by Lee more than made up for a first half in which she missed all eight of her field goal attempts, only scoring on two free throws.
“The outside shooting really opened it up for her,” Altoona coach Jill Helsel said. “She was going to the boards, she was getting rebounds and they moved their defense out a little bit (and) the guards were able to get her the ball. She was converting and making her foul shots.”
Lee wasn’t the only one struggling for the Lady Mountain Lions. They made just 5 of 30 field goal attempts, and only two of those successful shots were from 2-point range.
Still, State College could not take advantage, making 9 of 22 field goal attempts in the half and committing 12 turnovers.
“We have to be consistent in our game, and we have to run the things the team is trying to run,” Bethany Irwin said. “That’s what I said to the girls: ‘I can’t have four girls knowing what’s going on the floor. We need five.’ That’s what was happening.”
Irwin’s team could be excused a little for running out of gas in the second half. Starting without injured guard Carrie Mahon, they were playing one night after having to travel nearly two hours each way to Cumberland Valley, where they lost 60-58.
“We’ve had a couple games like that so far,” Altomare said. “With our team, we prepared before the game. We’ve seen Altoona before, we’ve played them since we were little and we knew what to expect. We knew it was going to be a hard game, we had to play four quarters and we didn’t have it.”
It was the fourth time this season State College has played on back-to-back nights with one of them road games.
“Back-to-back games are extremely tough, especially when they’re at this quality level of play,” Irwin said. “If we were playing a lesser competitive team it wouldn’t be so bad but to go to Cumberland Valley and take that to the final seconds of the game ... and then tonight, yeah, they’re going to be tired. You don’t have time to prepare for it.”
The Lady Little Lions, who had a lead as large as eight in the first half, tried to rally in the fourth with Kyla Irwin scoring 11 of her points in the frame. After trailing by as much as 47-34, the margin was down to 56-51 after an Irwin 3-pointer with 58 seconds left. But Reffner and McKenzie Hatch made their free throws and State College couldn’t score again until the final seconds to close the night.
“I think our defensive pressure got to them, tired them out,” Helsel said. “Our looks were a little more open.”