State College, Pa. - The Lady Lions led by as many as 12 points in Tuesday night's Penn State University Athletic Conference women's basketball championship at the Bryce Jordan Center, but Penn State Beaver's relentless effort to close out the second half periods spelled defeat for the Lady Lions for the second consecutive season. The Lady Lions held serve for nearly the entire ball game until an old fashion three point play by Beaver's Khalia Adams put the eventual champs on top for the first time since midway through the first quarter. Hazleton was unable to respond on their end of the floor and Penn State Beaver captured their fourth PSUAC title in as many years by a final score of 61-59.
Penn State Beaver took the first lead in the early stages of play but the Lady Lions responded to take and hold a slim advantage through much of the first half. Junior Stepahnie Guevara (North Brunswick, Nj.) slashed for a trio of first quarter layups while sophomore Kamryn Dodd (Stevensville, Md.) pounded the offensive glass to keep the Lions on top. Beaver opened the second quarter with a 4-0 run but freshman Kassie Ferdinand (Mt. Top, Pa.) responded with a pair of triples to boost Hazleton back on top, the latter three giving Hazleton a four point lead with less than two minutes to play in the half. Hazleton shot just 15.8 percent from the field in the second quarter but maintained a slim three point advantage at the midway point. Both squads shot just 25 percent from the floor in the first half.
Both teams improved their offense in the third quarter, but the Lady Lions got the best of Beaver in the period despite turning the ball over six times. With 2:43 to play in the third, freshman Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) hit a triple that sparked a 10-0 Lady Lion run over the next 1:20 seconds, putting Hazleton up 12 with 1:22 to play in the period. Over that span, senior Alexis Daly (New Albany, Pa.) knocked a jumper and a free throw, followed by Ferdinand's third bucket from long distance and two free throws from freshman McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.). Facing a twelve point deficit, Penn State Beaver responded with a 6-1 run of their own to end the quarter and cut Hazleton's comfortable margin of advantage to seven points by the buzzer.
Morgan Kurtz kicked off the final stanza with a three point bucket to trim Hazleton's edge to just four and the contest was on once again. Six straight points from Kamryn Dodd extended the Lady Lions lead back to eight but a three point play by Brittany Jackson and Khalia Adams long range basket got Beaver back within two points. Next it was Hazleton turn as sophmore Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj.) hit a runner on the baseline followed by a Daly jumper to put Hazleton up five, but the Lady Lions would go scoreless over the final 1:42 seconds amidst full-court pressure by Penn State Beaver. Despite the drought, the Lady Lions clung to a two point lead with :23 remaining in regulation, until Beaver's Khalia Adams drove the baseline, lofting a runner to the bottom of the net, earning the foul call and sinking the free throw to give Beaver the lead. A final effort from Daly and Nalls came up short, ending the Lady Lions hopes for conference glory.
Beaver's Brittany Jackson topped all scorers with 18 points, shooting 50 percent from the field while pulling down nine rebounds, six on the offensive boards. Adams hit just 6-22 from the field, but raked in seven rebounds while dishing out five assists in the winning effort.
Hazleton was led by Alexis Daly and Kamryn Dodd, who both scored 11 in the contest. Daly pulled in 12 rebounds while Dodd added eight boards for the Lady Lions, including five offensive rebounds. Kassie Ferdinand went 3-3 from beyond the arc for nine points and McKenzie Prutsman provided Hazleton with seven points, six rebounds and six assists in the loss.
Heartbreak on Tuesday night for the Lady Lions after outstanding regular and postseason performances. With luck, the Lady Lions season will not end with their defeat in the Bryce Jordon Center. Stay tuned to @ PSUHNAthletics for tomorrow's United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Tournament bid selection show at 11:00 a.m.