No. 5 Lady Lions escape against no. 9 Brandywine in 63-61 thriller

Senior Taylor Cannon fights off a defender to get open.
Senior Taylor Cannon fights off a defender to get open.

HAZLETON, Pa. - Senior Taylor Cannon (Hazleton, Pa.) and junior Alexis Daly (Wyalusing, Pa.) each recorded double-doubles as no. 5 Penn State Hazleton snuck by no. 9 Penn State Brandywine, 63-61, in a Penn State University Athletic Conference women's basketball game on Saturday afternoon.

Honored prior to the game on senior day, Cannon scored 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, in 38 minutes of action. Daly scored a team-best 20 points and added 12 boards despite playing 32 minutes due to foul trouble.

Hazleton (17-3, 11-2 PSUAC) clinched a home playoff game, and could claim the overall number one seed in the PSUAC with a win over Penn State Mont Alto on Sunday, February 8. Brandywine, who had already clinched a home playoff game, fell to 15-7 overall, 10-2 in the PSUAC.

Brandywine jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but Hazleton answered with an 18-6 run to pull ahead by seven. Cannon and Daly combined for 14 points during the stretch, and sophomore Deidra Ciavaralla (Mountain Top, Pa.) hit a three-pointer to give the Lady Lions a 21-12 advantage with 12:20 remaining in the first half. Brandywine answered with an 8-0 run of their own, before the teams exchanged blows to head into halftime with Brandywine ahead at 29-28.

The second half began much like the first half ended, and included eight ties. Olivia Encarnacion, who led Brandywine with 21 points and eight rebounds, pitched in a lay-up with 7:32 to play to give the Lions a 54-51 lead. Sophomore Kyana Willoughby (Union City, NJ) made a jumper from the corner, and Brandywine's Myeisha Matos answered with a three to make it 57-53. Brandywine hit a jump shot sandwiched in between baskets from Cannon and Willoughby to make it 59-57. Sophomore Stephanie Guevara (North Brunswick, NJ) then scored three of her 11 points points, including a free throw and a lay-up, to give Hazleton a 60-59 lead with 3:35 to play.

Encarnacion's lay-up with 2:34 remaining gave the Lions their last lead at 61-60, as Hazleton was able to keep Brandywine off the board in the waning minutes. Daly hit a jumper and a free throw that made it 63-61. Brandywine had chances, including a late lay-up that rolled out of the rim, and had to foul the Lady Lions. Despite having an opportunity to put the game away, Hazleton couldn't convert on four late free throws, but senior Christine Soltys (Milton, Pa.) grabbed her own miss from the line with three seconds to play to seal the win.

Two of the conference's top teams played very evenly throughout the game. Brandywine finished 41.5 percent from the field, while Hazleton shot just under 40 percent. Each team scored 16 points in the paint, while Hazleton held a 17-11 advantage in second half points and Brandywine outscored the Lady Lions 17-13 in points off of turnovers. The clearest advantage came on the glass, however, as Hazleton dominated 53-38, including 24 offensive rebounds.

Hazleton heads out on the road on Sunday, February 8 to play Mont Alto at 1:00 p.m. A win could clinch a first-round bye and the first seed based upon the outcomes of several games to be played in the PSUAC.