Women's Basketball Rallies Past Eastern Mennonite 64-61

Photo: Penn State Altoona sophomore guard Paige Burk put up 13 points, nine rebounds, and five assists for her team in Saturday's win at Eastern Mennonite University.
Photo: Penn State Altoona sophomore guard Paige Burk put up 13 points, nine rebounds, and five assists for her team in Saturday's win at Eastern Mennonite University.

HARRISONBURG, Va. - Penn State Altoona women's basketball used a big third quarter to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit on Saturday afternoon, winning 64-61 over Eastern Mennonite University in its Tip-Off Invitational at the Yoder Arena.

The Lady Lions (2-1) trailed 40-30 at halftime before outscoring Eastern Mennonite 18-4 in the third quarter to turn the momentum in their favor. Penn State Altoona withstood a late push by the home team to prevail in the closing seconds of the game.

Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) tied for the team-high in points with 13 and in assists with five, and she also grabbed nine rebounds and had two steals. Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) also finished with 13 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds, and a game-high four steals.

Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) recorded a double-double, securing 12 rebounds and scoring 11 points, and she also blocked two shots. Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) led all players in the game with 13 rebounds, and she also scored eight points. Alexis Stitt (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg) and Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) each finished with eight points.

"Today was a total team effort, from start to finish. We got out to a great and steady start in the first quarter," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "Shan played a phenomenal game, holding down a double-double. Paige came up with some big shots when we needed them. We had 52 rebounds as a team, with Cannistraci pulling in 13 of them. We also finished with 13 assists as a team."

Eastern Mennonite (2-1) got a game-high 19 points from Jess Washington, as well as 11 points from Kailey Landis.

Penn State Altoona played a strong first quarter and held an 18-15 lead by the period's end. Burk's three-pointer at 6:49 broke a 5-5 tie, and back-to-back layups from Christine and a basket from Stitt put the Lady Lions up by nine, 14-5. Eastern Mennonite pulled to within three points by the end of the period, including getting a three-pointer from Hope Simmons with 17 seconds left to make it 18-15.

The Royals pulled ahead in the second quarter, during which they outscored Penn State Altoona 25-12. Three-pointers from Landis helped Eastern Mennonite go up by six points, 32-26, with 1:28 left in the half. Two more threes from Emily McCombs made it 38-30 with 34 seconds remaining, and Chrissy Delawder's fastbreak score with two seconds on the clock set the halftime score at 40-30.

But Penn State Altoona utilized sound defense in the third quarter to overtake the home team's lead, outscoring Eastern Mennonite 18-4 in the period. The Lady Lions opened the second half with three-pointers from Stitt and Burk, and another trey from Burk made it a four-point game, 44-40, at the 4:35 mark. Christine's layup 25 seconds later narrowed her team's deficit to two, and she scored another layup at 2:41 to tie the score 44-44. Cannistraci connected from three-point range at 2:11 to put Penn State Altoona in the lead 47-44, and Burk added a foul shot late in the quarter to make it 48-44.

The Lady Lions hung on to their lead in the fourth to get out with a win. Zimmerman's transition layup and Burk's jump shot kept Penn State Altoona's lead at four, 52-48, by 7:19. But Eastern Mennonite used two layups and two free throws from Washington to jump ahead 57-56 by 4:29. Two more foul shots from Washington and a layup from Brianna Zook gave the Royals a 61-56 lead with 1:53 left in the game.

But Penn State Altoona shut down the Royals' offense for the rest of the game while ending the contest on an 8-0 run. Cannistraci's jumper preceded two Zimmerman free throws that narrowed Eastern Mennonite's lead to one, 61-60, with 55 seconds remaining. Burk's foul shot with 45 seconds on the clock tied the game 61-61, and Zimmerman's free throw two seconds later made it 62-61. Christine's layup with 16 seconds left put her team up 64-61.

Penn State Altoona made the best of Eastern Mennonite's 17 turnovers, holding a 23-7 advantage over the Royals in points off turnovers.

The Lady Lions' win is their second in a row, as the team went 2-0 in this weekend's Eastern Mennonite Invitational.

"I'm so proud of the way in which our team played this entire weekend," said Shoup. "EMU is a great team to a get a win against."

Penn State Altoona women's basketball now heads into a break, with their next game coming on Wednesday, November 29 against Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Greensburg at 8:00 p.m. on the road.