by Joel Nelson
ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona women's basketball defeated Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent La Roche College 79-75 on Saturday afternoon in Adler Arena. The date marked the Lady Lions' annual Pink Zone game, supporting the fight against breast cancer.
Two nights after suffering an 80-56 loss to Mount Aloysius College, the Lady Lions (11-10, 7-9 AMCC) bounced back strongly with the help of a 24-of-29 (82.8%) performance at the free throw stripe. The win is the Lady Lions' first against La Roche since January 6, 2010, snapping a 17-game losing streak to the Lady Redhawks.
After losing her 13-game streak of scoring 10 or more points, Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) led the way for the Lady lions with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 10-of-13 shooting from the free throw stripe. She recorded four steals in the first quarter and finished the game with six.
Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) got 14 points, with the help of a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the free throw stripe. Zimmerman also brought home five rebounds and two assists. Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) got an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double for Penn State Altoona. Cannistraci has recorded double-digits in five straight games, and a double-double performance in three of those games.
Off the bench, Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) scored 10 points while dishing out a team-high four assists, and Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) scored nine points while grabbing five rebounds.
Despite getting out-rebounded 55-40, Penn State Altoona was able to do enough to grab the win against an AMCC opponent that has given it plenty of trouble over the years.
"Tonight was a great win for us. I'm very proud of how strong the ladies played tonight, because it was an exceptionally physical game," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "I felt that Bri and J came off the bench and helped ignite us. For as poorly as we did on the boards, we certainly made up for it in other ways."
Jenna Cole paced La Roche with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double performance, both team-highs. Stephanie Thomas and Jazmyne Boyd collected 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Lady Lions played solid defense in the first quarter, allowing one made field goal by the Lady Redhawks. Christine paced Penn State Altoona with six points and four steals in the first quarter, as the Lady Lions held an 18-6 advantage heading into the second.
La Roche found its rhythm in the second quarter. Despite the dismal opening quarter, the visitors heated up in the second quarter, going 10-of-18 from the field. The Lady Lions held a 35-27 advantage at the half.
The third quarter proved to be the strongest quarter for each team when both squads scored 27 points. La Roche tallied a 22-12 start to the quarter when Nia Thomas hit a free throw to convert a three-point play. Christine made a layup with 3:01 left, then sunk a couple free throws with 2:58 left to put the Lady Lions up 51-49. Penn State Altoona held a 62-54 advantage at the end of the third quarter.
In a tight fourth quarter, the score tied three different times, but the Lady Redhawks did not obtain a lead in the period. With 1:53 left and the game tied at 74, Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) drained a three-pointer, her only field goal of the game, to put her team on top.
With her team ahead 77-75 with two seconds left, Cannistraci was fouled and hit two clutch free throws, giving Penn State Altoona the 79-75 victory. The win marks the first career victory against the Lady Redhawks for Penn State Altoona head coach Shoup.
The Lady Lions will look to take their momentum on the road, when they head to AMCC foe Pitt-Bradford on the evening of Wednesday, February 14 before finishing off the regular season against AMCC rival Penn State Behrend on Saturday, February 17.