York, Pa. - After tallying their highest scoring output of the season in the semi-final win over Penn State Beaver on Saturday night, the Lady Lions found themselves in a battle for the Penn State University Athletic Conference championship for the third consecutive year. But alas, it would not be Hazleton's time to shine when they met Penn State Brandywine on Sunday afternoon in the Ruhl Center on the campus of Penn State York. In an otherwise even matchup, Brandywine stole the show with a tremendous long range attack, burying 15 triples throughout the contest to separate themselves from Hazleton and capture the PSUAC crown by the final score of 71-53.
Brandywine's Chrissy Gledhill was red hot from beyond the arc, notching seven triples to pace the field with 26 points, shooting nearly 54 percent from long range. Gledhill's spot shooting ability paid huge dividends in all four quarters, connecting on clutch shots to thwart Lady Lion rallies.
PSUAC newcomer of the year Nikki Velez controlled the tempo in the backcourt for Brandywine and garnered four triples of her own, adding 10 rebounds and a game high five steals in the victory, while Chelsea Dent added 13 points and six rebounds, shooting three for six from three point range.
Hazleton was led by sophomore Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) who totaled nine rebounds and 13 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Junior Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj.) ended the afternoon with 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists to her credit and senior Stephanie Guevara (New Brunswick, Nj.) added seven points, four steals and a game high 14 rebounds.
Field goals were hard to come by in the first half for both teams, but key makes from beyond the arc made up for the low shooting percentage for Brandywine, allowing the eventual champs to build a double-figure lead in the first half. Brandywine would reel off four triples in the first 5:40 of action to move ahead of the Lady Lions 14-5. Hazleton would work their way to the free throw line for four points in the final 1:20 of the period and get a field goal from freshman Shelby Berger (Weatherly, Pa.), but would trail Brandywine 18-11 at the first intermission.
A war of attrition erupted in the second period, with neither team able to build momentum. Hazleton would hold Brandywine to just one field goal for nearly seven minutes in the second frame, but failed to convert on their offensive opportunities. As the half's end drew near, Gledhill would notch a pair of three's to break stalemate and give Brandywin a 26-15 edge. Hazleton was stymied from the field, going zero for 16 in the quarter and notched just five points from the stripe to fall behind 28-16 at the half.
Hazleton would rally to start the third quarter, cutting the deficit to just eight points after jumpers from sophomore McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) and Siva-Harrison, but a flurry of triples from Gledhill and Velez would provide Brandywine with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes of play to expand the cushion to 18 points. Brandywine would lead by as many as 19 in the period before a Siva-Harrison three point shot left Hazleton trailing 47-31 at the end of the third quarter.
Hazleton would find their offensive rhythm in the final quarter, but Brandywine continued to find paydirt from long range. Despite a 20 point quarter from the Lady Lions, Brandywine would tack on five triples in the period, to douse any hopes of a Hazleton rally and hold on for the 18 point victory.
Hazleton makes a valiant run in the PSUAC playoffs but runs out of steam in the finals for the runner up finish. After ending the year fifth in the final United States Collegiate Athletic Association coaches poll, the championship loss will leave Hazleton seeking an at-large bid to continue their season on the national stage. The USCAA bid selection show will take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 5:00 p.m.