PSUAC Semi-final Matchup: Penn State Lehigh Valley at Penn State Hazleton
Saturday, February 20 at 1:00 p.m. in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium (Hazleton, Pa.)
Penn State Hazleton enters the gauntlet that is the Penn State University Athletic Conference post-season tournament as the number two seed following their first conference loss of the regular season to top seeded Penn State Beaver. With a bye in round one, the Lady Lions earn a home court matchup with third seeded Penn State Lehigh Valley who defeated Penn State Wilkes-Barre in round one in convincing fashion by a score of 92-49. The Lady Lions enter the game well rested but a face a tough opponent in Lehigh Valley for rights to play for the PSUAC title on February 23.
Penn State Hazleton and Penn State Lehigh Valley met on January 30 at Stabler Arena on the campus of Lehigh University where the then undefeated Lady Lions pulled out the 84-83 victory in the waning moments of the contest. The Lady Lions held the lead for three quarters, but each time Hazleton would expand their lead, Lehigh Valley bounced back to keep within striking distance. Lehigh Valley nabbed a narrow advantage late in the fourth quarter and led by three points when Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj.) hit a baseline jumper to cut the lead to just one point. A Lehigh Valley turnover on the sideline gave Hazleton the ball with 13 seconds to play and Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) drove the basketball, making her way to the free throw line where she connected on both shots to earn the Lady Lions the one point victory.
Penn State Lehigh Valley (17-6, 11-3 PSUAC)
The Lehigh Valley women's basketball team currently ranks seventh in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association polling and ranked as high as fifth in the country during the 2015-16 regular season. They entered the PSUAC post-season tournament as the three seed and arrive in the semi-finals on a five game win streak including their first round victory over Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Lehigh Valley finished the season averaging 79.3 points per game, good for second best in the PSUAC behind top-seeded Penn State Beaver. Lehigh Valley also ranks second in the PSUAC in three point shooting percentage at 31 percent and is the conference's top defensive rebounding team, pulling down 31.7 boards per game on the opponents end of the floor.
Players to watch
#14 Hannah Bankes – Lehigh Valley's top scorer by a narrow margin at 18.9 points per contest, Bankes is the second best scorer in the PSUAC. The sophomore also sports the second most three point makes in the conference, connecting on 61 triples to this point in 2015-16 at a 33.3 percent clip. Bankes hit seven three pointers in the previous matchup against Hazleton and scored a season high 37 points in a win over Penn State Worthington Scranton on January 15.
#22 Andrea Watkins – Watkins ranks just behind Bankes at 18.8 points per game, shooting 41.7 percent from the field this season. The sophomore guard earns more attempts at the free throw line than any other player in the PSUAC at nine attempts per game and is a constant threat to drive the lane. Watkins scored a season high 38 points in a win over Penn State Beaver and scored 25 in the team's previous matchup versus Hazleton, hitting 11 of 14 at the charity stripe in the narrow loss.
#32 Ashley Gordon – The junior guard is Lehigh Valley's most versatile player. Gordon nets 15.3 points per game and is the team's top distributor averaging four assists a night. In addition to Gordon's offensive prowess, the junior leads the team with 3.7 steals per game and ranks second in rebounding for Lehigh Valley, pulling in 9.5 rebounds per game.
Penn State Hazleton (20-3, 13-1 PSUAC)
The Lady Lions spent over a month on top of the USCAA national rankings and currently sits as the second ranked team in the country. Hazleton ripped through opponents in the regular season with key road victories over Penn State Fayette, Brandywine and Lehigh Valley, all post-season contenders. Hazleton's lone blemish in conference play came against top-seeded Penn State Beaver earning the Lady Lions to second seed in the PSUAC tournament. Hazleton is second best in the PSUAC in points allowed, permitting just 53 points per game while scoring 76.2 themselves. The Lady Lions ended the regular season as the top overall rebounding and distributing squad, recording 45.8 rebounds and 15.4 assists per contest.
Players to watch
#23 Alexis Daly (New Albany, Pa.) – The senior forward and three time USCAA 1st team All-American is eager for post-season success after another outstanding year in her final regular season as a Lady Lion. Daly averaged a double-double in 2015-16, posting 17 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while shooting a 46.5 percentage from the floor ranking Daly in the top five in all three categories amongst PSUAC competitors. Daly also led the conference in shot-blocking, swatting 32 shots on the season, cementing herself as one of the top all-around players in the PSUAC. Daly enters the semi-final matchup on a roll of five straight double-doubles. In the team's previous matchup with Lehigh Valley the senior had an off night in the scoring column, posting just 7 points but was dominant on the glass, securing 16 rebounds in the victory.
#3 McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) – The freshman newcomer was the second leading scorer for Hazleton at 12.5 points per game. Prutsman is second in the PSUAC (5th best in the USCAA) in free throw percentage at 81.6 percent and led the conference in assist to turnover ratio at 2.6 assists per turnover. A feisty defender, the freshman swiped 65 steals on the season, second only to Guevara for the Lady Lions and sixth best in the PSUAC. On December 10, Prutsman scored a season/career high 31 points at Central Penn College, sinking four of seven shots from long distance.
#22 Stephanie Guevara (South Brunswick, Nj.) – A top Lady Lion defender and all-around performer, Guevara's 72 steals in 2015-16 were the 11th most in the country. The junior led Hazleton with 85 assists, good for 6th best in the PSUAC while scoring 9.6 points per game. Guevara also provides the Lady Lions with additional support on the boards, nabbing 5.4 rebounds per game and is a top tier free throw shooter at 70.6 percent from the line.
Follow us @PSUHNAthletics for updates during Saturday's semi-final round and check back at psuhazletonsports.com for post-game reaction and complete results.