by Joel Nelson
ALTOONA, Pa. – In its seventh home game of the season, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team lost 61-51 to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Hilbert College on Saturday in Adler Arena.
Penn State Altoona (6-8, 3-7 AMCC) held a 40-35 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Lady Lions were unable to hold off a fourth quarter rally from Hilbert.
"The game didn't end the way we wanted it to," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "The first half was tight. In the third quarter, we held them to nine points. But in the fourth quarter, we lost sight of a few key pieces, and Hilbert was strong enough to forge through to gain the lead back and pull off the win."
Penn State Altoona struggled from the field, shooting 28.6 percent overall and only 20.8 percent from beyond the three-point line. Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) and Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) were the bright spots for Altoona from downtown, going a combined 5-of-10. Christine sank all three of her free throw attempts while recording 15 points and five assists, which were team-highs. Strittmatter notched 13 points, six rebounds, and a team-high three steals.
Penn State Altoona's leading rebounder was Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone), who finished with eight rebounds to complement eight points. Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) recorded five rebounds in the game to keep alive a nine-game streak of five or more rebounds, dating back to the team's December 6 victory over Franciscan University.
Shannon Zimmerman (Pine Grove, PA/Pine Grove) posted seven points and seven rebounds. Brianna Polites (Elizabethtown, PA/Elizabethtown) and Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) recorded four points each.
Hilbert (12-5, 10-1 AMCC) got strong performances from Kelsi Ebert, Ashley Repine, and Katelyn Proy, who scored 22, 13, and 10 points, respectively. Repine recorded a double-double, adding a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Lady Lions opened the game on 5-0 run, with Strittmatter hitting a three-point shot 33 seconds into the game, then adding a layup at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter. That five-point lead was their largest of the first quarter, as Penn State Altoona ultimately trailed Hilbert 14-13 at the end of the first period.
Christine opened the second quarter scoring with a layup at the 9:14 mark to put the Lady Lions up 15-14. Morgan McNeill of Hilbert hit a jumper at 8:49 to put the Lady Hawks ahead 16-15, and Hilbert led the remainder of the way through the first half, holding a 27-23 advantage at halftime. Strittmatter led all Lady Lions in scoring at the end of the first half with 10 points on a 4-of-10 shooting performance, including knocking down a pair of three-pointers.
Much like the first quarter, Strittmatter opened the third quarter scoring with a three-pointer 20 seconds in the half to cut the Lady Hawks' lead to 27-26. The third quarter was all Penn State Altoona, as it outscored Hilbert 17-8. Cannistraci and Christine each scored five points in the period, and the Lady Lions led 40-35 at the end of the quarter.
But Hilbert overcame its 17-8 third quarter letdown to outscore Penn State Altoona 26-11 in the final quarter of play. Ebert scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to help boost Hilbert to the 61-51 victory.
Next up, the Lady Lions host non-conference Hood College on Monday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m. before beginning a three-game road trip against AMCC opponents Medaille College on Saturday, January 27, D'Youville College on Sunday, January 28, and Franciscan University on Wednesday, January 31.