Lady Lions Drop OWU Tournament Opener 88-64

Photo by Tim Belardi
Photo by Tim Belardi

DELAWARE, Ohio – Penn State Altoona women's basketball returned from its winter break on Friday night to tip off Ohio Wesleyan University's Hoops for Hope Tournament, and the Lady Lions suffered an 88-64 loss to host school Ohio Wesleyan at Branch Rickey Arena.

In its first game since December 16, Penn State Altoona (3-6) showed some rust in the 24-point loss to non-conference opponent Ohio Wesleyan. The Lady Lions struggled to find a rhythm on offense, shooting just 31.9% from the field while committing 19 turnovers. Penn State Altoona also had trouble slowing down the Ohio Wesleyan offense, as the Battling Bishops shot 46.7% from the field.

Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) led Penn State Altoona with 13 points and nine rebounds, and she also tied for the team-high in steals with two. Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) added 12 points and four rebounds, while Jessica Stevens (Altoona, PA/Altoona) finished with 11 points, seven boards, and two steals. Christine and Stevens tied for the team-lead in assists with four apiece, and Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) added 10 points.

Ohio Wesleyan (8-3) got a game-high 17 points from Devin Hefner, and Tia Karras scored 13 points. Claire Sterling led all players in the game with 14 rebounds.

Ohio Wesleyan opened its tournament by grabbing a 20-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Bishops started the game on a 6-0 run, following two baskets by Lisa Zeller and another from Hefner. Cierra Joiner's jumper at 2:07 put the home team up by 10 points, 15-5. Leah Maniaci's three-pointer and Hefner's jumper extended the Bishops' lead to 12 points, 20-8, with 31 seconds left in the period. Free throws by Stevens and Cannistraci helped narrow the difference to nine points by the end of the quarter.

The Bishops grew their lead in the second quarter, winning the period by 10 points. Layups from Karras and Nicole Popovich started the scoring, and Hefner's three-pointer at 7:45 put her team ahead 29-14. Later, Makayla Dearmond and Hefner made layups to make it a 20-point game, 43-23, and Erin Delaney's free throw with 24 seconds left upped the score to 44-23. Stevens' layup with 10 seconds remaining in the half closed the scoring, and Penn State Altoona went into the intermission trailing 44-25.

The Lady Lions had their best defensive success in the third quarter, when they limited Ohio Wesleyan to 15 points. Penn State Altoona scored the period's first two baskets when Christine's layup and Strittmatter's jump shot narrowed the Bishops' advantage to 44-29 by 8:27. Stevens' bucket at 4:45 brought the Lady Lions to within 16 points, 51-35, but Ohio Wesleyan got a score from Dearmond in the final seconds of the quarter to reestablish a 20-point lead, 59-39.

The fourth quarter proved to be the highest-scoring period of the game, as both teams combined to put 54 points on the board. The quarter started with back-to-back three-point plays for Ohio Wesleyan, as Karras and Sterling each made a layup and foul shot. Two more baskets from Karras gave the home team its largest lead of the night, 69-39, with 8:17 to play.

Christine made two three-pointers during the fourth quarter, while Cannistraci also connected once from beyond the arc. But Ohio Wesleyan maintained a big lead throughout the period and ultimately won by 24 points.

Penn State Altoona women's basketball returns to action tomorrow, Saturday, December 29, to play in the Hoops for Hope Tournament consolation game against No. 19 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Tipoff for that contest is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh lost 63-57 to No. 5 Hope College in the second game on Friday night.