by Joel Nelson
ALTOONA, Pa. – In its sixth home game of the season, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team defeated Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Greensburg 84-56 on Wednesday in the Adler Arena.
"Tonight was a complete team effort, and we clicked really well. We have been working utilizing five and tightening up our defense," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "Everyone scored and played unselfish basketball. I was proud of the ladies – they wanted this win. Their efforts and teamwork got them just that tonight."
Penn State Altoona (6-7, 3-6 AMCC) had a strong showing from the three-point line, going 9-for-15, with Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) combining for six of their nine makes from beyond the arc. Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) knocked down both of her three-point attempts, and Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) also made a three.
The Lady Lions also played solid defense, holding an opponent to under 60 points for the third time this season. Burk and Cannistraci recorded two blocks each, en route to the team recording a total of six on the night.
Christine led the way in scoring for both sides with 23 points, hitting 9-of-14 field goal attempts – four of them from beyond the arc. Megan Wheeler (Lilly, PA/Penn Cambria) contributed 14 points and six boards while achieving a new career-high with seven assists. Cannistraci recorded her first collegiate double-double with 12 points on a 5-for-7 shooting performance to go with 10 rebounds, and Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) brought home 10 points off the bench.
"I thought Megan did a great job establishing herself early, which opened up multiple scoring threats for herself and fellow teammates. Cannistraci played a solid game, coming up with some huge rebounds at key moments and posting a double-double along with two big blocks," said Shoup. "Paige had a strong game, as well. She distributed the ball well, knocked down two threes, and created defensive chaos."
Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) hit a field goal, got an assist, and grabbed two rebounds, while Tierney Fernandes (Martinsburg, PA/Central) sank three free throws and got four rebounds. Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) hit two field goals and four free-throws to total eight points.
Additionally, Penn State Altoona totaled a season-high 22 assists as a team.
Pitt-Greensburg (3-14, 3-7 AMCC) was led in scoring by Kelsey Oddis, who finished the evening with 18 points. Sam Ballow added 14 points for the Lady Bobcats.
"Greensburg is a tough team that never quits. Kelsey Oddis is one of the strongest athletes in our conference," said Shoup. "I was pleased with our efforts and ability to limit her rebounds."
Penn State Altoona had a strong first quarter, beginning with a layup by Wheeler 51 seconds into the game. Pitt-Greensburg's only lead in the game came from a Maddy Coddington three-pointer with 8:41 left in the period, but Penn State Altoona answered 18 seconds later, when Cannistraci made a three-pointer to put the Lady Lions up 5-3 at 8:23 of quarter one. Penn State Altoona ended the first quarter with a 25-19 advantage.
Christine opened the scoring in the second quarter with a layup at the 9:06 mark, then added a three-pointer 40 seconds later. Those field goals put Penn State Altoona up by 11, and they would lead by 16, 44-28, at the end of the first half, holding the Lady Bobcats to nine points in the second quarter. Penn State Altoona also held a 23-14 rebounding advantage at the conclusion of the first half.
The Lady Lions outscored the Lady Bobcats 22-17 in the third quarter and led 66-45 after Laster hit a deep three-pointer off the glass as the buzzer expired to end the period.
A Wheeler layup with 5:38 to go in the fourth quarter put Penn State Altoona up 72-51, and the Lady Lions would lead by 20 points or more the rest of the way. Strittmatter made a fastbreak layup with five seconds remaining in the game, and the Lady Lions secured the 28-point victory.
Next up, the Lady Lions have home games with conference opponent Hilbert College on Saturday, January 20 at 3:00 p.m. and non-conference opponent Hood College on Monday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m.