Women’s Basketball Grinds Out 77-73 Victory Over Pitt-Bradford

Photo (by Raychel DeArmitt): Penn State Altoona freshman guard/forward Alexis Cannistraci pushes the ball past midcourt during Wednesday night's win over Pitt-Bradford in the Adler Arena.
Photo (by Raychel DeArmitt): Penn State Altoona freshman guard/forward Alexis Cannistraci pushes the ball past midcourt during Wednesday night's win over Pitt-Bradford in the Adler Arena.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona women's basketball pulled out a 77-73 win over Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Bradford in a hard-fought contest in the Adler Arena on Wednesday night.

The Lady Lions (5-4, 2-3 AMCC) prevailed in a sloppy game that featured 56 total turnovers, 50 fouls, and plenty of inconsistency at both ends of the floor by both teams.

"Tonight was certainly a battle. Sometimes we were battling Bradford and ourselves, but the two key pieces to this win were effort and heart," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "It wasn't the prettiest game, but it was gritty, and the ladies played with a lot of heart. I'm happy to see the fight within them which paid off with a win."

Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) led Penn State Altoona in scoring with 17 points. Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) added 13 points, six rebounds, and three blocks, and Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) scored 13 points to go along with five rebounds.

Megan Wheeler (Lilly, PA/Penn Cambria) notched her second double-double of the season, tying for the game-high total in rebounds with 14 while scoring 11 points. She also finished with a team-leading six assists and added four steals and two blocks. Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) had 10 points, four rebounds, four steals, and three assists.

Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg) and Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) rounded out the squad, with Burk posting a line of five points, five rebounds, and four assists and Polites finishing with eight points and five boards.

"Megan Wheeler played a tough game. She played a good portion of the game in foul trouble, which limited her minutes on the floor. However, she played the last almost eight minutes with four fouls and finished with a double-double," said Shoup. "Kaley, Finnley, and Paige hit some big outside shots for us in crucial moments of the game. Alexis played a nice inside-outside game. She was able to execute at various spots offensively."

Pitt-Bradford (4-6, 2-3 AMCC) was led by Ali Rinfrette, the reigning AMCC Preseason Player of the Year. Rinfrette scored 29 points, while Jennifer Isenberg added 16 points and 14 rebounds and Shaelyn Snipes scored 12 points.

"Shannon and Brianna were dealt a challenge tonight: to guard and contain Ali Rinfrette," Shoup said. "They did a nice job on her. We were able to hold her scoreless in the first quarter."

Penn State Altoona took advantage of a slow start by Pitt-Bradford to jump out to a seven-point lead by the end of the opening quarter. After Wheeler's free throw started the scoring, jumpers by Cannistraci and Zimmerman upped the Lady Lions' lead to 5-0 by 8:34. Wheeler's jump shot at 5:30 made it 7-1, and a pair of three-pointers from Strittmatter kept the home team ahead by six, 13-7, with 2:41 left in the period. Burk connected from beyond the arc on a fastbreak with five seconds remaining to make it 18-11.

Scores by Polites and Cannistraci opened the second quarter scoring, giving Penn State Altoona a 22-11 lead by the 8:37 mark. But Pitt-Bradford clawed back and took the lead at 3:33, when Lyric Collins' fastbreak layup put the visitors up 25-24. Rinfrette's jumper with three seconds left in the half knotted the score at 33-33, and the teams went into the intermission tied.

After halftime, the teams battled through a low-scoring third quarter. Three-pointers from Christine and Cannistraci helped Penn State Altoona grab a 41-38 lead by the 4:33 mark, but Rinfrette's layup and foul shot at 3:10 put Pitt-Bradford ahead 44-41. A layup and two free throws by Bri Wells helped the Lady Panthers to a 46-44 advantage by the end of the quarter.

But the offensive pace picked up in the fourth quarter, when the teams combined for 60 points. A trio of fastbreak layups from Christine midway through the period helped Penn State Altoona nab a 60-58 lead by 5:03, and Zimmerman's bucket at 4:24 made it 62-58. Wheeler's jumper, another Christine layup, and two Strittmatter free throws kept their team's lead at four, 70-66, with 57 seconds to play.

Pitt-Bradford narrowed the Lady Lions' lead to one with 36 seconds left, when Snipes hit a three-pointer to make it 70-69.

But strong free throw shooting helped Penn State Altoona close out the victory, as Zimmerman, Strittmatter, and Christine combined to go 7-for-8 from the charity stripe over the final 28 seconds. For the game, the Lady Lions shot 26-for-30 (86.7%) from the free throw line.

"I'm disappointed with how careless we were with the ball tonight. We committed 30 turnovers and missed 21-plus layups. That is madness," said Shoup. "We aren't going to pull out wins if we don't take care of the ball moving forward and finish at the basket. The other area we need to strengthen is getting on the defensive boards. Bradford finished with 15 offensive boards, and that's too many."

Penn State Altoona women's basketball will look for its first AMCC road victory of the season in its next game, as the Lady Lions will travel to face La Roche College this Saturday, January 6 for a 4:00 p.m. contest.