MEDIA, Pa. - Senior Taylor Cannon (Hazleton, Pa.) led the charge as no. 4-seed Penn State Hazleton completed a dramatic comeback to topple top-seeded Penn State Brandywine, 65-59, in a Penn State University Athletic Conference tournament semifinal on Sunday afternoon. The Lady Lions advance to the PSUAC Championship game where they will meet the winner of the Penn State Beaver/Penn State Lehigh Valley game.
Hazleton (19-5, 11-3 PSUAC), ranked fifth in the latest USCAA Coaches Poll, trailed by 16 at the half, and by as many as 17 points early in the second half. Despite leading 10-8 early in the first half, Hazleton went cold and would trail for the next 32 minutes.
Cannon finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, her second double-double during this postseason, and led the Lady Lions as they chipped away at the Brandywine lead. Sophomore Kyana Willoughby (Union City, NJ) hit a jumper from the corner to cut the lead to three at 56-53 during a 19-9 Hazleton rally, and Cannon added a lay-up less than a minute later that cut the lead to one at 58-57. Brandywine's Lauren Munro made a free throw to put the Lions up by two, but Willoughby's clutch jumper tied the score at 59 with 1:36 to play.
Cannon pulled down a defensive rebound and threw an outlet pass to sophomore Stephanie Guevara (North Brunswick, NJ) who went to the basket and gave Hazleton their first lead since 13:54 in the first half. Willoughby blocked a three-point attempt that deflected to junior Alexis Daly (Wyalusing, Pa.), and eventually ended up in the hands of Guevara. Two made free throws from Guevara put the Lady Lions up 63-59, and a defensive stop and subsequent Brandywine foul put Guevara back on the charity stripe. This time she sealed the game, making both free throws for a 65-59 lead with six seconds remaining.
Daly finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Hazleton, and Guevara chipped in 11 points, including seven from the free throw line, for a Lady Lions team that shot their best percentage from the field in over two months. Hazleton finished 26-for-55 (47.3 percent), the first time they have shot better than 40 percent since the new year.
Brandywine was led by Melanie Kempf, who provided a spark off the bench with 16 points, and was a major contributor to the Lions first half success. Ten Brandywine players scored, as depth was a significant advantage for the hosts. Olivia Encarnacion added 11 points for the Lions.
Hazleton now awaits the Beaver/Lehigh Valley winner on Tuesday, February 24 at 8:00 p.m. The game will be held at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus. The Lady Lions defeated Beaver in December and lost to Lehigh Valley in double overtime just over a month ago.