Penn State Altoona women’s basketball overcame a second half deficit during Saturday afternoon’s Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference game in the Adler Arena, but the Lady Lions were still ultimately defeated by one point, as Penn State Behrend escaped with a 78-77 win.
Despite trailing for most of the game, Penn State Altoona (8-5, 6-3 AMCC) battled back and grabbed a slim lead midway through the fourth quarter. But the Lady Lions were unable to close it out, as Behrend (10-5, 7-3 AMCC) reclaimed its lead with less than one minute to go and went on to win by a point.
Penn State Altoona played well defensively, holding Behrend to a 36.9 percent field goal percentage. But the Lady Lions were unable to find a rhythm on the offensive end of the court, shooting just 26.4 percent from the field.
“Tonight is a disappointing loss. We should have won that game,” said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. “But too many missed layups and free throws were a difference maker. We also failed to recognize and execute in crucial moments. In order to make the playoffs, we need to be more sound in our decisions.”
Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) posted her team-high sixth double-double of the season, leading her team with 20 points and 10 rebounds while distributing a team-best three assists. Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) scored 14 points to go along with eight rebounds, two steals, and a team-high two blocks, and Sarah Huston (Coatesville, PA/Coatesville) scored 11 points and totaled a season-high six steals.
Sydney Snyder (New Enterprise, PA/Northern Bedford) contributed 10 points off of the bench. Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) scored eight points, grabbed six boards, and notched two assists, and Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) also scored eight points and secured eight rebounds. Chloe Inman (Annville, PA/Annville-Cleona) secured a career-high eight rebounds.
Behrend’s Caitlin Carnuche paced all scorers in the game with 21 points, while Kourtney Beamesderfer added 14 points and Kara Haslett finished with 13 points. Ashley Seamon posted a game-high 13 rebounds.
Behrend’s first four baskets were three-pointers, as Haslett and Carnuche each connected for a pair of threes early in the first quarter to give the visitors a 12-5 lead by 5:58. Penn State Altoona got to within two points, 14-12, following baskets from Burk and Huston later in the quarter, and three Strittmatter free throws gave the Lady Lions a 15-14 lead at 1:52. Behrend scored the next basket, a three-pointer from Taylor Phelps, and finished the quarter with a 17-15 advantage.
Another trey from Carnuche started the second quarter, and Beamesderfer’s layup at 8:18 gave Behrend a 22-17 lead. Penn State Altoona used an 8-0 run later in the quarter to tie the score 31-31, but four foul shots by Ashley Seamon and another from McKenzie Hovis helped Behrend to a 36-32 advantage by halftime.
Behrend utilized the three-pointer again early in the third quarter, as Beamesderfer and Carnuche each connected from beyond the arc to give their team a 42-32 lead by 8:46. Later, baskets from Jordan Swartz and Hovis kept Behrend’s lead at 10 points, 54-44, with 1:43 remaining in the period. Penn State Altoona outscored Behrend 5-1 in the rest of the quarter, however, getting a three-pointer from Burk and two free throws by Inman to cut the deficit to 55-49.
The Lady Lions kept the momentum going in their favor, starting the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to grab the lead. Free throws by Snyder and Cannistraci opened the fourth quarter scoring, and Snyder’s three-pointer at 7:41 tied the game at 55. Huston’s layup and foul shot 30 seconds later gave Penn State Altoona a 58-55 lead, and free throws by Burk and Cannistraci kept the difference at three, 61-59, by the 5:40 mark.
The teams traded scores over the next several minutes. Behrend used four free throws by Haslett and Carnuche to go up 66-63 by 3:54, but Snyder’s three-pointer tied the score shortly thereafter. A jumper by Cannistraci again tied things up, 68-68, and Strittmatter converted a three-point play at 2:33 to give her team a 71-69 lead. Two foul shots by Christine at 2:04 made it 73-71.
After Behrend jumped ahead by one point, two more Christine free throws at the 54-second mark gave the home team a 75-74 advantage. But Behrend used a layup by Alanna Dibble and two free throws from Beamesderfer to work its way back in front, 78-75, with 17 seconds remaining.
Burk sank two foul shots with nine seconds on the clock to cut Behrend’s lead to one, 78-77. But after two missed free throws by Behrend, Penn State Altoona was unable to come up with the go-ahead score, losing by one point.
Despite the loss, Penn State Altoona had some positives to build on, including an improved rebounding effort. The Lady Lions posted a 52-43 advantage over Behrend in rebounds during the game.
“I am happy that we stepped up to the challenge and got on the boards,” said Wilt. “This has been an area that we’ve been inconsistent in, but tonight we took care of business.”
Penn State Altoona women’s basketball will look to regroup quickly, as the Lady Lions will hit the road for a game at AMCC opponent Alfred State College this Monday, January 20 at 4:00 p.m.