by Joel Nelson
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – After a slow start, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team defeated Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Franciscan University 83-58 on Wednesday evening in the Finnegan Fieldhouse.
Penn State Altoona (9-9, 5-8 AMCC) had a strong shooting night, going 28-of-64 (43.8%) from the field, while hitting ten three-pointers and shooting 81% from the free throw stripe.
"We weren't pleased with our first half performance. We came out sluggish, and Franciscan took full advantage. We were able to discuss the necessary changes that needed to occur for us to get back on the right track during halftime," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Shoup. "A strong third quarter was key. We tightened up on our defense and got on the boards, and we were able to outscore them 27-6 in the quarter."
Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) had another solid game, scoring 16 points and grabbing three steals, both team-highs. She shot 6-of-14 from the field, including a three-pointer. Christine has now put together a 12-game streak of scoring 15 or more points, dating back to the team's December 9 home meeting with Medaille College.
With eight rebounds tonight, Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) kept alive a 13-game streak of five or more rebounds, dating back to the team's December 6 victory over Franciscan in Adler Arena. Burk also scored 15 points, going 5-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-5 from downtown.
Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) recorded 13 points with the help of a perfect 7-of-7 performance from the free throw stripe.
The Lady Lions' bench was explosive, as Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) and Tierney Fernandes (Martinsburg, PA/Central) went a combined 10-of-18 from the field, each notching exactly 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists. Fernandes' total of 14 points represents a season-high for the freshman.
"Tierney had a great game. She was our spark today, going 5-for-7 from the floor, pulling down four boards, and dishing out two assists," said Shoup. "I'm proud of the team for redirecting their efforts to utilizing five on the floor and hitting the boards.
Raegan Stead powered Franciscan (0-18, 0-13 AMCC) offensively, scoring 24 points off the bench. She was 9-of-16 from the field, featuring a 5-of-9 performance from the three-point arc. The Lady Lions held three of the five Lady Baron starters to under five points, and Stead was the team's only scorer off the bench.
In the first quarter, neither team got a lead larger than four. The first period came to an even conclusion at 17-17 when Fernandes hit a three-pointer with 29 seconds left.
The second quarter was just as tight, as neither team snuck a lead larger than three points. Like the first quarter, the second quarter would end in a deadlock, with the teams tied 33-33 going into halftime.
Penn State Altoona had a breakout third quarter, however, outscoring the Lady Barons 27-6 to post its best offensive and defensive period of the night. Christine had nine points, while Burk and Cannistraci had seven each in the period, leading the Lady Lions to a 60-39 advantage heading into the final quarter of play.
Laster powered Penn State Altoona in the fourth quarter with a team-high nine points. She shot 3-of-3 from the field while sinking both of her free throw attempts and a three-pointer, as the Lady Lions took home the 83-58 victory.
With the win, the Lady Lions are on a two-game winning streak, having outscored their last two opponents, D'Youville College and Franciscan, by a combined 173-107. Penn State Altoona sweeps Franciscan on the season, outscoring the Lady Barons 166-95 in two meetings.
The Lady Lions will look for another season sweep of an AMCC opponent this Saturday, February 3 in the Adler Arena, when they will host D'Youville College for a 3:00 p.m. game.