Hazleton, PA – The Lady Lions reigned supreme in the opening round of the Penn State University Athletic Conference Playoffs at the Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium. Penn State Hazleton (18-5, 12-3 PSUAC) needed extra time to overcome a stout and worthy opponent in Penn State Fayette (8-17, 8-7 PSUAC), outlasting them 66-65 for the overtime victory.
Penn State Fayette took control of the ballgame in the early going. Sophomore Center Kaitlyn Miller controlled the paint, freeing up Freshman Guard, Hayley Moreland and Sophomore Forward, Courtney Haines for open looks at the hoop. Combined with excellent defensive pressure, Fayette's offense was able to open up a 22-13 with 6 minutes remaining in the opening half. Hazleton struggled at times to find open looks, but found offense late in the half, going on a 14-2 run in the final minutes to take a 29-25 lead at the midway point.
The second half was dominated by two players. Two-time USCAA All-American Alexis Daly (Wyalusing, PA) refused to fail, racking up 19 second half points on 8 of 15 shooting. Despite not scoring a basket in the first half, Fayette found instant offense from Freshman Guard Ally Rudolph, who matched Daly at every turn. Rudolph lit up the scoreboard for 20 second half points, scoring 6 of 10 from long distance. Under two minutes to play, Daly struck once more to give Hazleton a 6 point advantage, when Rudolph struck again. With one minute and twenty seconds remaining, Rudolph nailed a triple cutting the lead to just three points. Hazleton failed to counter and with 6 seconds remaining, Rudolph found her stroke once more, sending the game to overtime.
Overtime began just as the second half finished. Rudolph drained her 7th shot from beyond the arc to take an early lead, but Hazleton used its advantage in fouls to get to the charity stripe in overtime. Senior Forward Taylor Cannon (Hazleton, PA) and Alexis Daly refused to let the season end, hitting eight clutch free throws to allow the Lady Lions season to continue, eclipsing the tough Fayette squad 66-65.
Hazleton saw a truly determined performance from Alexis Daly. Daly finished the night with season highs points and rebounds, scoring 34 to lead all scorers and securing 21 rebounds in 42 minutes on the floor. Seniors Taylor Cannon and Christine Soltys (Milton, PA), eager to keep their season alive, added the remainder of Hazleton's offense. Cannon supplied the Lions with a double-double of her own tallying 15 points and 14 rebounds. Soltys added 11 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds to help the Lions to victory.
Penn State Fayette was led by an outstanding performance off the bench from Ally Rudolph. Despite not scoring in the opening half, Rudolph scorched the net for seven 3-pointers in the final 25 minutes of play, finishing the game with 25 points on 9 of 19 shooting. Three other Fayette regulars finished in double figures. Hayley Moreland tossed in three 3-pointers of her own to finish with 13 points on the night. Kaitlyn Miller finished grabbed a double-double, with 10 points and 13 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Courtney Haines concluded the contest with 10 points and 6 rebounds.
The Lady Lions escaped Fayette's long-range onslaught to achieve a birth in the Final Four of the PSUAC Playoffs. The Lions will travel Saturday, to take on the number one seeded Penn State Brandywine.