by Joel Nelson
ALTOONA, Pa. – In its final non-conference game of the season, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team won 96-66 against Hood College on Monday evening in Adler Arena.
"Tonight was a great win against a very physical Hood team. We knew they were going to play us aggressively, and I felt that we counteracted well," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "We applied a good amount of pressure on both ends. Our offense was sparked by our defensive intensity and our ability to get stops."
Penn State Altoona (7-8, 3-7 AMCC) got a strong offensive game from its starters, who shot a combined 29-of-59, 49.2 percent, from the field. Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) led the way with 23 and 20 points, respectively. The two also led their team in assists, with Burk dishing out seven and Christine recording six.
Burk's 20 points and seven assists are her new season-highs, and she also recorded eight rebounds in the game to keep alive a ten-game streak of five or more rebounds, dating back to the team's December 6 victory over Franciscan University. Meanwhile, Christine's six assists also marked a season-best total for her.
"Paige had a hot hand tonight. It was great to watch her pull the trigger and knock down the outside shots," said Shoup. "When Hood adjusted to her on the perimeter, she got herself to the basket, which created some great offensive opportunities."
With 11 points tonight, Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) has now scored in double-digits in the past three games. She recorded her first career double-double by adding a season-high 13 rebounds. Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) shot 5-of-6 from the field and sunk her only free throw attempt for 11 points, and she also grabbed four boards while recording two blocks and a steal. Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) went a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe in an 11-point effort.
Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) recorded 13 points, seven rebounds, and a steal while finishing with a team-high three blocks. The Lady Lions are now 4-1 when Cannistraci records two or more blocks in a game. Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) got seven points, seven rebounds and a steal in a season-high 25 minutes off the bench, while Tierney Fernandes (Martinsburg, PA/Central) recorded a steal and five rebounds.
"We had six players finish in double figures. Kaley had a double-double, and we had several others who weren't far from reaching that, as well. Shannon also played a heck of a game, getting out in transition and finding success attacking the rim," said Shoup. "The impressive piece about tonight was that everyone contributed, because each of them wanted to help their teammates find success on the floor."
Hood (5-13, 1-8 MAC Commonwealth) got 23 points and 10 rebounds from Mia Savoy, and Denisha Robinson added 13 points and seven boards. Ebony Pitt contributed 11 points.
Hood began the game on a 4-0 run with field goals from Savoy at 9:07 and 8:22 in the first quarter. Penn State Altoona's first basket came on a Burk three-pointer at the 8:02 mark of the first quarter. Burk sunk her first three attempts from downtown, helping the Lady Lions to a 26-11 by the end of the first.
Penn State Altoona began the second quarter on a 9-0 run, getting points from Polites, Laster, and Zimmerman in the opening 2:06 of the period to put them up 35-11. The Lady Lions set a season-high first half total of 49 points to lead 49-26 at halftime.
Savoy recorded the Blazers' first four and final four points of the third quarter, as Hood outscored the Lady Lions 23-18 in the period. But Penn State Altoona still kept a 67-49 advantage in the game.
The Lady Lions posted their highest point total of the game in the fourth quarter, putting 29 points on the board during the period. Layups by Polites and Zimmerman at 8:49 and 8:35 got things started, and the Lady Lions reached their largest lead of the night when Christine put her team up by 31 with six seconds to go in the game.
Penn State Altoona's total of 96 points is a season-high and ranks as the fifth-most points scored in a game in team history. It is also the largest point total for the Lady Lions since they scored 97 against Medaille College on February 24, 2015.
The Lady Lions went 22-of-26, 84.6 percent, from the free throw stripe. They also outscored the Blazers 20-16 in points off turnovers, 17-12 in second-chance points, and 24-10 on the fastbreak. Penn State Altoona scored half of its 96 points in the paint, holding a 48-26 advantage over Hood in that category.
"Overall, we shot well from all areas on the floor," said Shoup. "I loved the fastbreak game we played tonight. We found a good amount of success pushing the ball."
Penn State Altoona women's basketball finishes its 2017-18 non-conference schedule with a 4-1 record, with Christine averaging a team-best 19.6 points during those five games.
The Lady Lions will get some rest before finishing off the month of January with road games at Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponents Medaille College on Saturday, January 27, D'Youville College on Sunday, January 28, and Franciscan University on Wednesday, January 31.