Lady Lions Top Salem 78-66 to Nab First Win

Photo: Penn State Altoona sophomore guard Finnley Christine scored a career-high 26 points for the Lady Lions in their win over Salem College on Friday evening.
Photo: Penn State Altoona sophomore guard Finnley Christine scored a career-high 26 points for the Lady Lions in their win over Salem College on Friday evening.

HARRISONBURG, Va. - Penn State Altoona women's basketball notched its first victory of the season on Friday evening in the Eastern Mennonite University Tip-Off Tournament, as the Lady Lions defeated Salem College (N.C.) 78-66 in the Yoder Arena.

Penn State Altoona (1-1) got out to a big lead after the first quarter and was able to hold on to it throughout the rest of the game.

"Tonight was a great win for our team. We came out strong from the start. Our defense was intense from the get-go, which gave us the offensive boost we needed," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "Everyone contributed. Kassidy Sorichetti and Alexis Cannistraci stepped up big time for us tonight. Their defensive contributions played a vital role into our win."

The Lady Lions' Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) led all scorers with a career-high 26 points, and she also led her team with five assists. Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) scored 17 points and secured a team-high nine rebounds. Megan Wheeler (Lilly, PA/Penn Cambria) and Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) each scored eight points, with Wheeler also adding eight boards.

Salem (1-1) was paced by Sabrina Shepherd's 23-point, 10-rebound effort. MiKayla Seivers scored 21 points for the Spirits.

Christine posted an impressive first quarter for Penn State Altoona, scoring at a torrid pace to help her team get out to a 25-12 advantage by the period's end. Christine scored 19 of her squad's 25 points in the quarter.

Down 2-0, Christine hit a three-pointer before making four two-point baskets and two foul shots to help the Lady Lions to a 13-6 lead by the 5:05 mark. Two fastbreak layups from Christine helped make it 19-10 at 2:11, and scores from Polites and Kassidy Sorichetti (Halifax, PA/Halifax) helped Penn State Altoona to the 25-point mark before the end of the quarter.

In the second quarter, Wheeler's jumper at 7:58 put Penn State Altoona up by 15 points, 27-12. Zimmerman's three-point play -- a layup and foul shot -- at 5:11 gave the Lady Lions a 17-point lead, 32-15. Alexis Stitt (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg) connected from three-point range at 2:36 to keep the difference at 17 points, 39-22, and Polites' layup at 1:53 made it 41-24.

But Salem ended the half on an 11-0 run to draw to within six points, 41-35, of the Lady Lions' lead by the intermission. Two free throws by Seivers brought the Spirits' deficit back into the single digits, and Shepherd's three-pointer with three seconds left until halftime made it a six-point difference.

Salem continued to make things difficult for Penn State Altoona in the third quarter. Shepherd opened the second half scoring with a jumper and added two foul shots at 8:56, and her three-pointer at 7:27 put her team ahead 42-41.

"Seivers and Shepherd are two tough players. They were a challenge for us to handle at times, and we wish them and the Salem team the best moving forward," said Shoup. "They gave us a run for our money in the second and third quarters. We called a timeout in the third to regroup and get back on track."

Following that timeout, which came on the heels of Salem taking its 42-41 lead, Penn State Altoona got a three-pointer from Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and a transition layup from Zimmerman to go back on top, 46-42. Later in the third, jump shots from Polites and Cannistraci made it 56-49, and Sorichetti's free throw with 47 seconds left gave her team an eight-point lead, 57-49.

Penn State Altoona pulled ahead in the fourth quarter to win comfortably. Christine's layup and three-pointer, along with a score from Wheeler, brought the Lady Lions' advantage back into double digits, 64-53, with 6:07 to go. Wheeler's layup at 2:30 made it a 13-point game, 74-61, and two late baskets from Zimmerman put the Lady Lions up by 15.

"We distributed the ball well tonight, chalking up 18 assists," Shoup said. "We also had a total team effort on the boards, collecting 48 for the game."

Next up, Penn State Altoona women's basketball faces Eastern Mennonite in day two of the EMU Tip-Off Tournament. That game will get underway tomorrow, Saturday, November 18 at 3:00 p.m.