Lady Lions Top Franciscan 83-37 in Home Opener

Photo (by Tim Belardi): Penn State Altoona junior Ijonana Laster puts a shot up during the Lady Lions' win over Franciscan University in the Adler Arena on Wednesday night.
Photo (by Tim Belardi): Penn State Altoona junior Ijonana Laster puts a shot up during the Lady Lions' win over Franciscan University in the Adler Arena on Wednesday night.

ALTOONA, Pa. - In its first home game of the 2017-18 season, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team cruised to an 83-37 victory over Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference foe Franciscan University in the Adler Arena.

Penn State Altoona (3-3, 1-2 AMCC) got a strong defensive showing in the win. Franciscan's 37 points are the fewest allowed by the Lady Lions since they gave up only 36 points to Penn College in a win on November 20, 2011. Additionally, Franciscan's 17 first half points in tonight's game are the fewest allowed in a half by Penn State Altoona since that same game against Penn.

The Lady Lions also forced Franciscan (0-5, 0-3 AMCC) into 39 turnovers, the most turnovers by an opponent since January 13, 2013 when La Roche College committed 39 turnovers.

Penn State Altoona's Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) led all scorers in the game with a season-high 17 points to go along with a game-high four steals. Megan Wheeler (Lilly, PA/Penn Cambria) recorded her first double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-best 14 rebounds.

Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) put up a season-high 12 points while grabbing seven boards.

"Tonight was a great team win. We played unselfish basketball for 40 minutes," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "Ijonana played a strong offensive game, shooting 50 percent from the field. Meg pulled in a double-double, and she's been consistent for us. I'm also very pleased with how well we distributed the ball, finishing with 19 assists as a team. I'm just really proud of the ladies and happy for them."

Rebekah Nevarez led Franciscan in scoring with 15 points, and she also secured nine rebounds. Raegan Stead finished with 11 points for the Lady Barons.

Penn State Altoona came out on top after a sluggish first quarter, during which both teams had combined for just eight points through the opening 5:23. Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) scored a fastbreak layup with 1:53 left to put Penn State Altoona up by eight, 12-4, and Alexis Stitt (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg) connected from three-point range at the 55-second mark to make it 15-10. Cannistraci followed with a layup that gave the Lady Lions a 17-10 advantage by the end of the quarter.

Polites and Cannistraci opened the second quarter scoring with baskets that gave Penn State Altoona its first double-digit lead of the evening, 21-10. Wheeler's jumper at 6:47 made it 25-13, and Laster's three-pointer at 4:23 increased the lead to 30-15. Four free throws by Zimmerman and two more from Cannistraci upped the Lady Lions' advantage to 38-17 by the 1:25 mark, and Wheeler added two more jumpers and a free throw in the remaining time to give the home team a 43-17 lead at the half.

After winning the second quarter 26-7, Penn State Altoona proceeded to dominate the third quarter by outscoring Franciscan 21-4. After opening the third with baskets from Zimmerman and Wheeler, Finnley Christine's (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) layup at 7:05 made it 51-17. Later in the period, Laster's three-pointer gave Penn State Altoona a 60-21 advantage with 2:05 to go, and she sank two free throws at the 1:39 mark to make it 62-21. Cannistraci's layup at 1:12 closed the scoring in the quarter, and the home team entered the fourth quarter with a 64-21 advantage.

In the fourth, Cannistraci's layup at 7:26 gave Penn State Altoona its largest lead of the night, 71-21.

The Lady Lions posted big scoring margins over Franciscan in several key areas, including points off of turnovers (36-7), points in the paint (42-14), second chance points (19-3), fast break points (20-6), and bench points (37-14).

Penn State Altoona plays another home AMCC game this Saturday, December 9, when they will host conference opponent Medaille College in the Adler Arena for a 3:00 p.m. contest.