Note: This article originally appeared in the Mirror on Wednesday, March 20, 1996.
Lady Lions stage furious comeback
By Jim Lane
Mirror Sports Editor
INDIANA — The Altoona Lady Lions are still wearing the glass slipper, and they’ll wear it all the way to Hershey.
The clock almost struck midnight Tuesday, but the Lady Lions staged a miracle comeback — rallying from a five-point deficit in the final 33 seconds — to dump Woodland Hills, 56-55, at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Memorial Field House.
The victory gave Altoona its seventh PIAA western regional championip since 1981. The Lady Lions will play Northampton for the Class AAAA state championship Friday night at 6 o’clock at the Hersheypark Arena.
Northampton earned the right to represent the East with a 64-62 win over Cheltenham.
“God gave us a miracle,’’ said Altoona’s Jill Humbertson, who sank the game-winning shot off an inbounds pass from Tracy Tyler with six seconds left.
“It happened so fast, I can’t believe it went in,’’ Humbertson continued. “All I could think of was we couldn’t let them score. It was a long six seconds. They got it down the floor so fast.’’
Woodland Hills pushed the ball to the front court quickly, but Wendy Wiggins’ shot found only iron as time expired.
Altoona fans immediately pelted the court with Hershey kisses and rushed out of the stands to mob the Lady Lions.
“These kids just don’t know the word quit,’’ Taneyhill said.
Woodland Hills coach Bill Bichsel was stunned. A 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter gave the Lady Wolverines a six-point lead (47-41), but they left the door open enough down the stretch for Altoona’s miracle comeback.
“I’m very disappointed,’’ Bichsel said. “It was one of those things. Their shot went in, but it could have missed. We had six seconds left and Wendy (Wiggins) got a shot, but it just didn’t go.’’
Altoona has had some great wins over the years, including a big comeback against Penn Hills in last year’s western final, but it would be hard to top this finish.
After leading only once in the first half (26-25) and once in the third quarter (35-34), Woodland Hills seemed to gain control with its 12-0 run during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
When Courtney Kaup fouled out with 1:04 to play, it looked bleak for the Lady Lions. With 49 seconds left, Cristin Greco’s free throw gave the Lady Wolverines a five-point lead (53-48) and many Altoona fans no doubt thought it was over then.
But, Woodland couldn’t slam the door, and the Lady Lions, champions that they are, gathered enough momentum and emotion to pull it out.
Humbertson’s follow-up made it 53-50 with 33 seconds to go. After Erica Johnson made one of two free throws, Tyler picked off a pass and fed Deanna Jubeck for a fastbreak bucket that cut it to 54-52.
Greco went to the line with 15 seconds left, but again made just one.
Then it was more heroics by Tyler, a sophomore point guard whose name wasn’t even on the roster for last night’s game.
Tyler was fouled and canned two, making it 55-54 with 13 ticks left.
“I knew I had to put them in,’’ she said.
“She missed two against Penn Hills last week, and I chewed her out for about five minutes,’’ Taneyhill noted. “She really showed a lot of guts tonight.’’
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Humbertson tied up Greco and Altoona got the ball via the possession arrow.
Moments later, Tyler found Humbertson, who popped in the game-winner.
“We sent Tehia Perretta to pick for Humbertson and the Woodland Hills girl didn’t move over,’’ Taneyhill explained. “That left Jill open.’’
Humbertson banked it home and the Lady Lions are packing for Hershey again.
GAME NOTES: Now 24-5, Altoona has won 21 of its last 22 games Ö Woodland closed with a 22-8 record Ö Kaup (14), Jubeck (13) and Humbertson (12) led Altoona, which hit 24 of 49 shots Ö Woodland clicked on 19 of 37 shots Ö Lions out-rebounded WH 27-25 and committed five fewer turnovers (16-11) Ö Kaup had 9 assists.
ALTOONA (56): Kaup 7 0-0 14, Stetter 1 2-2 5, Humbertson 6 0-1 12, Curran 2 2-4 6, Jubeck 6 0-0 13, Mielnik 1 0-4 2, Perretta 1 0-0 2, Tyler 0 2-2 2. Totals — 24 6-13 56.
WOODLAND HILLS (55): K. Morton 7 2-4 16, Wiggins 5 3-4 16, D. Johnson 4 0-0 9, E. Johnson 3 3-4 10, Greco 0 4-6 4, O. Morton 0 0-0 0, Fischback 0 0-0 0. Totals — 19 12-18 55.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Altoona 14 13 12 17 — 56
Woodland Hills 9 17 9 20 — 55
3-point goals: Altoona 2 (Stetter, Jubeck); Woodland Hills 5 (Wiggins 3, D. Johnson, E. Johnson). Technicals — none.
Officials: Mike Felus, Tom Fontaine, Tona Williams.