Sunday March 27, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.
Athletics is deeply rooted in his family.
It’s in the genes.
Senior hoop Morgan Altavilla, 17, carried on the sporting tradition established in recent years at Baldwin by his older brothers, Doug and Nick.
Baldwin’s sophomore basketball coach Jamal Woodson called Altavilla one of the best players in the WPIAL heading into the season.
“Morgan was not just one of our captains, but a huge contributor to the success of our team,” Woodson said. “She was one of the best scorers and players in the WPIAL. Losing her is going to be very hard. It’s hard to find a player who never misses a practice, leads the team and is among the WPIAL score leaders.
A high-energy 5-foot-6 guard, Altavilla averaged 20 points in 2021-22 and scored a career-high 32 points on Feb. 7 in a 67-53 division win at Hempfield. She has also scored 28 points multiple times this year.
“It was by far the most successful season I’ve had, not only scoring but also becoming the player and person I am today,” Altavilla said. “Scoring wasn’t my main goal this season. I just went out there and had fun with my teammates. And they’re the ones who made it possible for me to be as successful as I was. I give them my all credit.”
Altavilla was a four-year-old college player who also led the team in scoring as a junior. She has a 4.1 GPA, is Vice President of the National Honor Society, and is a member of Baldwin’s Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs.
“Morgan is the perfect player for a coach,” Woodson said. “She accepts criticism very well and at the same time gives it to her teammates. When the team wasn’t doing well in practice, Morgan stepped in and challenged the team to do better. The girls always listened and respected what she had to say.
“Morgan has lived and breathed Baldwin basketball since she was a little girl. She is the definition of what it means to live and breathe Baldwin basketball. Losing her will be a huge loss.
Altavilla plans to continue her athletic and academic career at the graduate level while majoring in engineering. She considered several college options, including Washington & Jefferson, Penn State Behrend, Fairmont State, Millersville, Saint Vincent, Chatham, and West Virginia Wesleyan.
“I plan to make my decision very soon,” Altavilla said. “That being said, I still visit a few schools.”
Altavilla’s brother Doug, now 24, set career records for quarterback success at Baldwin and Mercyhurst. He stood out in three sports (football, basketball, baseball) in a successful college career, graduated from high school in 2015 and is currently studying pharmacy as a graduate student at Pitt.
Nick Altavilla, 23, followed his older brother to Mercyhurst, where he started as a wide receiver. He graduated from Baldwin in 2016 after completing a distinguished career in three sports (football, basketball, track).
Nick is also in graduate school; he’s in Iowa at the Palmer Chiropractor School.
“My two older brothers definitely set the expectations for me,” Morgan said, “and I’m forever grateful to have such influential people in my life to look up to. Growing up with two older brothers definitely boosted my competitive edge.
The Altavilla siblings are cousins of Dan Altavilla, who became the highest major league draft pick in Mercyhurst baseball history when he was selected in the fifth round by Seattle in 2014.
Two other cousins, Olivia and Sophia, competed for the Baldwin women’s swim team a few years ago.
And if that’s not enough high-level athleticism in the family, Altavilla’s parents, Doug and Kelly, were both high school athletes. Doug ran cross country, track and field and swam at Baldwin. Kelly competed in softball at Keystone Oaks.
The high point of Morgan Altavilla’s high school basketball career came during his pandemic-tainted sophomore season.
And it was a shock.
The Highlanders defeated Central Dauphin, the No. 1 Class 6A team in the state, by a score of 42-35 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
“My biggest memory would have to be from my second year,” Altavilla said. “Just before we got hit by the pandemic, the state playoffs were starting. At the time, we had only won a place by a hair’s breadth. We lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to North Allegheny, and when (NA) won the championship, it gave us the opportunity to go to the United States.
“We had to face the No.1 team, and as soon as we heard that we knew we had work to do. None of us were scared. We had great confidence, and the only people who believed in us was us. We shocked everyone, and it was a memory and an accomplishment that I will never forget.
Competing in the highest ranking of the WPIAL, Altavilla has competed against many elite athletes during his hoop career. One stood out.
“The best player I played against in high school was Makenna Marisa,” Altavilla said. “She played for Peters Township, and when I was a first year she was a senior. It was hard to face him. »
By the time she graduates, Altavilla will have earned nine varsity letters, including four in basketball and track and field and one in cross country.
This season, Baldwin hoops went through a rebuilding process. The Highlanders finished 12-9 and 5-7 (fifth place) in Section 2-6A.
“I think overall our team performed well, but as always there was room for improvement,” Altavilla said. “We clicked very well at the start of our season, then we hit a wall. Towards the last games, we picked up the pace. Unfortunately, it was too late as we were a few games short of qualifying for the playoffs.
Woodson put a unique spin on the campaign. His proverbial glass is not normally half empty or half full, but rather overflowing with positive enthusiasm.
“This season has been great,” he said. “We didn’t make the playoffs, but our record didn’t dictate our success. We had a small group of players because we had a lot of senior graduates (last year). But the players we had were all in, which made it a joy to coach.
“Our season has been filled with ups and downs in terms of wins and losses. We have lost too many close matches.
Baldwin’s player rotation included Altavilla, sophomore guard Katie Lucarelli, senior forward Heidi Johnston, junior G/F Gianna Schoeb, senior rookie G/F and Bethany Liv Cox, junior guard Bri Swailes, second-year guard Mallory Mezevich and first-year guard Mary Vargo.
“Katie was our playmaker and all the plays went through her. She did an amazing job being our second captain and leading us to many wins,” Woodson said. “Heidi was one of the most underrated players in the WPIAL. She can jump out of the gym, grab rebounds and was our second highest scorer.
“Gia gave us the motivation we needed and was in every practice and game. She was very encouraging for the players. And Bri was our best defender. When we had to eliminate the other team’s top scorer, Bri was ready for the task.
Altavilla, Johnston and Cox were the seniors on the team.
“Liv will be hard to lose and hard to replace,” Woodson said. “She works hard and was always ready to hit big shots when we needed them.
“Mallory was scrappy and made some great passes that put our players in scoring position.”
Two other young players expected to return and contribute in the backcourt are freshman Alayla Bivins and sophomore Ronnie Ott.