It was only fitting that Kayla Grimme had a hand in closing out Altoona's victory Tuesday night.
Grimme stuffed a close-range turnaround jumper attempt by Mifflin County's Logan Snyder with just seconds left on the clock as the Lady Lions wrenched a 63-62 win over the Lady Huskies at the AAHS Fieldhouse.
"We tell our kids that every game isn't going to be perfect and they found a way to win," said Altoona coach Jill Helsel, whose team improved to 11-6. "And the luxury of having someone in there who can block shots in Kayla Grimme helps, too."
The 6-foot-1 senior forward did a whole lot more than just block shots. She imposed her will on the inside the entire game, blocking or altering a number of Mifflin County shots. Grimme, who converted six offensive rebounds for putbacks, was a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line and finished with a game-high 21 points.
"I was very pleased with our effort on both ends of the floor," Mifflin County coach Kevin Kodish said. "I thought we played a very determined game, but Altoona is an outstanding team and it's tough to beat them on their floor."
After a back-and-forth start to the game, Altoona took a 19-16 lead when point guard Kaycie Reffner drained a 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter. The Lady Lions built their largest lead at 30-19 when McKenzie Hatch hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Mifflin County (9-11) would close the gap to three points, 35-32, late in the second quarter on an Ashleigh Williams layup, but Altoona was able to respond and built another 11-point cushion with 2:30 left in the third quarter on a layup by Hatch. That's when the Lady Lions went cold, going scoreless for the next 5:02.
The Lady Huskies rattled off nine straight points, including seven from Snyder, who nailed a trey off an inbounds pass with just 2.1 seconds left in the quarter to cut the lead to two, 52-50. Mifflin County's Williams started the fourth-quarter scoring with a driving layup and the Lady Huskies took the lead, 53-52, on Snyder's free throw with 7:25 left in the game.
Altoona's Darby Lee stopped the bleeding with a layup at the 5:28 mark of the fourth, followed by a Grimme putback and another Reffner 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 59-53.
Mifflin County sliced the lead to one, 62-61, on a pair of free throws by Snyder with 1:50 left and proceeded to tie the game at 62-62 when Williams hit 1 of 2 at the foul line after being fouled by Hatch on a layup attempt with 40.6 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Hatch would return the favor with a drive of her own and she was fouled with just 19.5 seconds on the clock. After missing her first free throw attempt, Mifflin County's Kodish called a 30-second timeout. Hatch stepped up to the line, sank her second attempt, and then got a little help from Grimme, whose help defense resulted in a blocked shot to end the game.
"Credit Mifflin County, they played well," Helsel said. "It was huge for McKenzie Hatch to step up and hit that foul shot after they called a timeout."
"We had a chance to win the game on the last possession," Kodish said, "but unfortunately they made a play and got the win."
Altoona's Reffner hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, while Hatch contributed 10 points and Lee had nine.
"She had a big game," Helsel said of Reffner. "We've been telling her that when she's open to take the shot, and she was hitting tonight."
Altoona played its first of four home game this week, hosting State College tonight with Mercyhurst Prep on Friday and Villa Maria on Saturday.
"We're just taking one game at a time," Helsel said. "The game we played (last night) is the most important and we have a big game today with State College."
Lewistown, who plays at Williamsport on Saturday, had all five starters score in double figures. Williams led the way with 15 points, Snyder and Rebekah Knable followed with 12 points each, Olivia Halfpenny added 11 and Breanna Cline had 10.
MIFFLIN COUNTY (62): Snyder 4 3-4 12, Williams 4 6-9 15, Halfpenny 4 1-1 11, Knable 4 0-0 12, Cline 5 0-0 10, Cassat 1 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Handricks 0 0-0 0. Totals - 22 10-14 62.
ALTOONA (63): Hatch 3 2-4 10, Reffner 6 0-0 17, Donley 2 0-0 6, Lee 4 1-2 9, Grimme 7 7-7 21, Feathers 0 0-0 0, Knab 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals - 22 10-13 63.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mifflin County 16 16 18 12 - 62
Altoona 19 18 15 11 - 63
3-point goals: Mifflin County (Knable 4, Halfpenny 2, Snyder, Williams); Altoona (Reffner 5, Hatch 2, Donley 2).
Records: Mifflin County (9-11); Altoona (11-6).
Officials: Todd Parker, Chris Rickens, Dave Heim.
JV: Altoona, 42-36. High scorers - Tara Kibe, MC, 10; Taylor Campbell, A, 8.