Note: This article originally appeared in the Mirror on Monday, March 17, 1980.
By Neil Rudel
INDIANA — It had to be the best played victory over the most formidable opponent by any area girls’ basketball team. Ever.
The Altoona High girls kept their Cinderella hopes for a PIAA Class AAA state championship alive by nipping Norwin 61-60 in a barnburner Saturday night before a packed, pro-Altoona crowd at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Fieldhouse.
The victory, the Lady Lions’ second upset of the inter-district season, propelled them into the Western Semifinals against Shaler Tuesday night.
“It was the greatest game I’ve ever been associated with, bar none,’’ said an exuberant Altoona coach Art Taneyhill. “For a girls’ game, it’s the greatest one I’ve been through and greatest one I’ve seen. It had everything.’’
To the Altoona fan, the game with “everything’’ ended on a spine-tingling note.
Trailing 60-58 with 20 seconds left, Altoona ran set play that worked perfectly. Lisa Fubio had the ball, left of the key; it seemed everybody in the house thought Fubio, the Lady Lions’ do-it-all forward, would take the last shot — but she dished off to a wide-open Miriam Heidler, who canned it — and was fouled with 12 seconds left.
After Norwin played Al McGuire and tried to ice Heidler with a timeout, she canned the winning free throw. Twelve seconds later — after two Norwin shots missed — there was pandemonium.
“We ran special,’’ explained Taneyhill, who was swarmed at the buzzer. “It was designed that either Miriam or Lisa would get the last shot. We said if they were in man, we’d run it through. If they were in zone we’d send Miriam or Lisa through to the corner for a shot. It was the first time they played man-to-man all night — and was I happy when I saw it.’’
The play had a touch of irony to it, according to Taneyhill. “I told the girls back in August, when the play was designed that someday this play would win a big basketball game — and it probably won us the biggest game we’ve ever had.’’
Knight coach Bob Shrader thought Fubio would take the shot.
“It went from their best shooter to somebody else,’’ he said, shaking his head. “I was surprised she (Fubio) passed it up. They ran the play well, but the pass shouldn’t have gotten through.’’
Shrader praised Altoona, calling the Lady Lions “an outstanding team,’’ and admitted, “we couldn’t have played much better than we did.’’
Neither could Altoona. The Lady Lions led 16-15 after one quarter as Heidler and Fubio accounted for 14 points. Then the Knights, who finished the season 28-3, roared back on great foul shooting (Norwin used an uncanny edge at the charity stripe to stay close all night; Altoona made 12 more field goals but was outshot from the foul line, 36-7.)
After Sue Plank’s jumper lifted Norwin up 29-26 — its biggest lead of the first half — Altoona’s Missy Luciano scored underneath and Judy McNellis, who was outstanding at point guard, buried two straight jumpers and Taneyhill’s troops led 33-29 at half.
Altoona maintained its advantage through most of the third quarter — behind Fubio, who hit for a game-high 22 points, the Lady Lions led 43-40 with 3:01 left in the third quarter. But Norwin scored six straight free throws and then Laura Marcolina drilled home a buzzer-beating 18-footer, giving the Knights a 48-45 lead after three stops. The momentum appeared to shift Norwin’s way.
The Knights’ lead grew to as much as 52-47 with six minutes left before the Lady Lions managed ties at 53 and 57 on jumpers by Fubio and Julia Loner.
The losers’ Lori Barberich knocked down a baseline jumper, then Shelly Klinek made one of two foul shots — setting the stage for Altoona’s decisive sequence.
Taneyhill, now wearing a perpetual smile, said the positive attitude of his young girls — four juniors and one sophomore start — is beginning to snowball.
“I don’t think these kids have played any better than they are right now,’’ he understated. “Everybody’s doing their part. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know we’ve gotten two inter-district wins under our belts. The desire has always been there, but now the experience is there and so is the confidence. I think we’re going to be tough to beat.’’
The Cinderella story continues.
Game notes: The Lady Lions will face Shaler (7-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Peabody ... Altoona is now 20-6 ... Norwin was 7-4 representative; Altoona is 6-2 ... Fubio led Altoona with 22 points, Heidler added 15, McNelis 12 ... Lady Lions shot blistering 52 percent from floor, connecting on 29 or 55, but were even more torrid at 66 percent in first half (16 of 24) ... Norwin shot 17 of 43 for 39 percent ... Knights hit 26 of 36 fouls ... Altoona committed just 12 turnovers, four less than Norwin ... Lady Lions had high total of 24 team assists (to Norwin’s 7) as McNellis fronted pack with 11 ... Altoona was outrebounded 36-30 ...Fubio led with 10, Luciano had 8, Paula Wood 7 ... Fubio hit 11 of 17 from floor, Heidler 7 of 14, McNellis 6 of 12. Fubio only took four shots in the first half, but hit all four ... Taneyhill said his team dedicated game to John McAleer, (father of former Altoona player Larry) who is recovering from surgery at Altoona Hospital ... Lady Lions are now one of four AAA girls’ teams left in west, eight in state.
Altoona (61): Fubio 11 0-0 22, Heidler 7 1-1 15, Wood 0 0-0 0, Luciano 2 2-4 6, McNellis 6 0-2 12, Loner 3 0-0 6, Kelley 0 0-0 0. Totals — 29 3-7 61.
Norwin (60): Klinek 2 12-16 16, Barberich 6 6-7 18, Duncan 1 4-6 6, Corl 4 3-4 11, Hensler 0 0-0 0, Marcolina 3 1-2 7, Plank 1 0-0 2. Totals — 17 26-36 60.
Score by quarters
Altoona 16 17 12 16 — 61
Norwin 14 15 19 12 — 60
Officials: Bob King, Fay Steving