HAZLETON, Pa. - Penn State Hazleton prevailed in a tense, physical battle with Penn State Greater Allegheny, grabbing a 75-61 win in a Penn State University Athletic Conference women's basketball game in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium on Friday night.
A strong night from the field propelled the Lady Lions (20-2, 13-0 PSUAC) past Greater Allegheny, keeping them in the game even as the Lions mounted a comeback in the third quarter. Greater Allegheny took advantage of their opportunities to get back in the game despite trailing by nine at the half. A 15-4 run to start the second half gave GA their first lead of the game, and the teams traded baskets to end the third with Hazleton trailing 52-50.
Hazleton pulled away in the final eight minutes to make the win look a lot easier than it was. Playing without two starters for much of the game, Hazleton held on to their perfect conference record heading into a showdown with Penn State Beaver on Saturday.
Hazleton jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, and despite leading for most of the first quarter found themselves tied at 16 after two GA spurts closed the gap. A narrow 21-20 advantage is all Hazleton would have after the first quarter.
The Lady Lions used a 7-0 run to start the second, sparked by baskets from their three post players, Alexis Daly, Kamryn Dodd and Alison Vincent. Haley Nalls nailed a three-pointer to make it 31-23, and Daly scored seven of Hazleton's next nine points to build a 40-27 lead with 3:16 to play in the half.
Greater Allegheny would score two baskets, but the teams combined to go scoreless over the final 2:37 of the half to make it 40-31 in Hazleton's favor.
Greater Allegheny pounced early and often in the third, edging their way to a two-point deficit at 44-42 with 4:38 to play in the quarter. A three from Tori Johnston gave GA their first lead, but Nalls would answer 38 seconds later to pull Hazleton ahead again. The Lions outscored Hazleton 7-4 over the final three minutes of the quarter, including a lay-up at the buzzer to grab a 52-50 lead after three.
Daly tied the score with each of her next two buckets as the teams found themselves knotted at 54 apiece with 9:09 to play. Guevara and freshman Kassie Ferdinand (Mountain Top, Pa.) each hit one of two free throws to give Hazleton a 56-54 lead with 8:22 to play before five different Lady Lions made lay-ups over the next four minutes to give Hazleton a 12-point lead at the 4:42 mark. Hazleton traded baskets the rest of the way to escape with the 14-point win.
Senior Alexis Daly (Wyalusing, Pa.) scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season and fourth straight. Junior Stephanie Guevara (North Brunswick, Pa.) added 12 points and a career-high 11 assists as freshman McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, NY) sat out with an injury.
Besides Daly and Guevara, three other Hazleton players finished in double figures, including 12 points off the bench from sophomore Alison Vincent (Ashville, Pa.). Sophomore Kamryn Dodd (Stevensville, Md.) and freshman Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) added 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Mandi Johnston led Greater Allegheny with 20 points while Tiajuanna Burke added 17 points and a game-high 14 boards. Tori Johnston rounded out GA's double figure scorers with 14.
Next Up: Penn State Hazleton plays host to Penn State Beaver on Saturday, Feb. 13th at 1:00 p.m. for the regular season crown in the PSUAC. The winner will earn the number one seed in the PSUAC tournament. Both teams have already clinched first round byes and will host games on Saturday, Feb. 20th in the semifinals.