Women’s Basketball Sails Past Chatham 80-60

Photo (by Tim Belardi): Freshman guard Jessica Stevens brings the ball up court during Monday's win over Chatham.
Photo (by Tim Belardi): Freshman guard Jessica Stevens brings the ball up court during Monday's win over Chatham.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona women's basketball closed out the calendar year with a strong team win on Monday afternoon, defeating non-conference opponent Chatham University 80-60 in the Adler Arena.

Penn State Altoona (4-7) shot well while playing strong defense, as the Lady Lions made 49.3% of their attempts from the floor while limiting Chatham (6-6) to a field goal percentage of just 24.7%.

Penn State Altoona also out-rebounded Chatham by a significant margin, 57-36. That total of 57 rebounds is tied for the seventh-most rebounds in a game by a Penn State Altoona women's basketball team in program history.

"I'm really proud of the way we played today. I believe we executed our game plan very well," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. "Everyone played a vital role in our win today – every single one of them were on the boards. To out-rebound a team as good as Chatham by 21 is pretty impressive. They are a high-energy team that is all over the place."

Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored a team-high 21 points for Penn State Altoona while adding eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Jessica Stevens (Altoona, PA/Altoona) recorded her first career double-double, posting season-highs with 20 points and 11 rebounds while leading all players with six assists. Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) finished with her team-leading sixth double-double of the season, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while adding four assists and a game-high two blocks.

Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) added seven rebounds and six points for Penn State Altoona, and Alivia Borlie (Belsano, PA/Bishop Carroll) dished out five assists while securing five rebounds. Emily Lehman (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored six points.

"We had two players, Jess and Lex, finish with double-doubles, and two others [Strittmatter and Christine] who weren't far from that mark," said Wilt. "Our rebounding, defense, and unselfish play got us the win today."

Megan Sieg led Chatham with 21 points, while Ashley McClain scored 11 for the Cougars.

Penn State Altoona built a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Lady Lions started the game with a jumper from Christine and three-pointer from Cannistraci to make it 5-0 by the 8:49 mark. Just over three minutes later, layups from Stevens and Christine increased their team's advantage to 17-3. Two layups from Lehman kept Penn State Altoona up by 11 points, 23-12, with 14 seconds left in the period.

The Lady Lions continued to maintain a strong lead in the second quarter. Back-to-back jumpers from Cannistraci set Penn State Altoona's advantage at 35-22 with 2:49 left in the period, and Stevens' basket and Cannistraci's trey within the quarter's final minute set the halftime score at 44-27.

Chatham closed the gap in the third quarter, during which it posted a 20-13 scoring advantage over Penn State Altoona. Back-to-back threes from Sieg and McClain narrowed the Cougars' deficit to seven points, 48-41, with 5:52 left in the third. Sieg connected from three-point range again at 3:03 to keep the difference at seven points, and a Brittani Smith free throw at 1:57 made it a six-point game, 52-46. But a layup from Christine and three-pointer from Stevens helped Penn State Altoona boost its lead back to 10 points, 57-47, by the end of the quarter.

"Give Chatham credit. They never stopped gunning for us," said Wilt. "In the third, they had us on our heels. But we were able to maintain our composure and get the job done."

The Lady Lions bounced back in the fourth quarter, winning the period 23-13 to successfully close the game out. After Borlie's layup at 7:22 gave Penn State Altoona a 63-50 lead, buckets from Stevens and Cannistraci increased it to 67-50. Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) connected on a three-pointer at 4:45 to give Penn State Altoona its largest lead of the game, 70-50.

Chatham got no closer than 17 points the rest of the way, as the Lady Lions held a comfortable advantage through the remainder of the game.

In addition to its sizeable advantage in rebounds, Penn State Altoona also held statistical leads over Chatham in points in the paint (48-14), fastbreak points (14-0), and assists (22-10).

Penn State Altoona women's basketball will return to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference play this Thursday, January 3, when the Lady Lions continue their short homestand by hosting Franciscan University in the Adler Arena for a 6:00 p.m. tipoff.