Lady Lions Overpower Franciscan 74-43

Photo (by Tim Belardi): Junior guard Paige Burk surveys the floor during Thursday night's win over Franciscan in the Adler Arena.
Photo (by Tim Belardi): Junior guard Paige Burk surveys the floor during Thursday night's win over Franciscan in the Adler Arena.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona women's basketball proved to be too much for Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Franciscan University on Thursday evening, when the Lady Lions posted a 74-43 victory in the Adler Arena.

Penn State Altoona's (5-7, 3-3 AMCC) success started with its defense, which limited Franciscan (0-12, 0-6 AMCC) to a 25.8% field goal percentage and forced 28 turnovers. The Lady Lions were able to secure an early lead, then grow it throughout the game.

"This wasn't our best, but we found a way to get it done," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. "Franciscan is a team that just keeps coming for you. They fight hard and challenge you every step of the way."

Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) had a big impact for Penn State Altoona at both ends of the court. She scored a career-high 27 points, including an 11-for-18 performance from the field. Her total of 11 field goals is tied for the fifth-most in a game in Lady Lions history. Additionally, Burk grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots, tying for the third-most blocks in a game in team history.

"Paige had a great overall game. She was a big spark for us offensively, creating opportunities for her teammates and herself by attacking the basket," said Wilt. "She was also a blocking machine tonight and did work on the boards."

Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) added 15 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, and Jessica Stevens (Altoona, PA/Altoona) led all players in the game with 12 rebounds and seven assists. Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) scored eight points, and Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and Emily Lehman (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) finished with six points each.

"Jess did a great job hitting the boards again. She plays with so much determination and finds a way to get it done," said Wilt. "We also got great minutes from Emily Lehman, Alivia Borlie, Makenna Snyder, and Chloe Inman."

As a team, Penn State Altoona racked up nine blocks, tying for the fourth-most blocks in a game by a Lady Lions team in program history.

Franciscan was led by a double-double effort from Angela Starre, who scored 10 points and secured 10 rebounds. Abby Baierl added nine points for the Lady Barons.

Penn State Altoona jumped out to a 20-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. Cannistraci's three-pointer opened the scoring at 9:22, followed by Burk's layup and foul shot at 8:26 that made it 6-0. 32 seconds later, Burk connected from beyond the arc to give her team a nine-point lead. Lehman's layup and two Stevens free throws gave Penn State Altoona a 15-point advantage, 19-4, with 1:22 left in the period.

The Lady Lions maintained their lead through an evenly-played second quarter. The home squad got layups from Stevens and Christine to start the second period scoring, and two Christine free throws at 6:03 made it 26-11. Cannistraci converted a three-point play at 5:25 to increase her team's lead to 29-14, and Burk's layup at 4:46 made it 31-14. Alivia Borlie (Belsano, PA/Bishop Carroll) hit a jumper at 4:13, representing her team's final points of the first half. Penn State Altoona went into the intermission up 33-21.

Penn State Altoona went back to boosting its lead in the third quarter, during which the Lady Lions had a 22-11 scoring differential over Franciscan. Burk scored her team's first five points of the half, followed by a layup from Strittmatter and a basket and foul shot from Cannistraci that increased the home team's lead to 43-23. Three-pointers from Strittmatter and Burk helped the Lady Lions increase their lead to 53-28 by 1:25, and Burk's jumper at the buzzer made it 55-32 heading into the final period.

The Lady Lions won the fourth quarter by eight points. Another trey from Burk gave her team a 30-point lead, 62-32, by 8:39. Penn State Altoona went on to lead by 31 points, when a Chloe Inman (Annville, PA/Annville-Cleona) layup with 36 seconds remaining made the score 74-43.

Penn State Altoona finished the game with a big advantage over Franciscan in points in the paint (40-14), and the Lady Lions also led in rebounds (46-39), points off turnovers (18-12), second chance points (11-5), fastbreak points (6-0), and assists (18-11).

Penn State Altoona women's basketball will look to grab its third consecutive AMCC win this Saturday, January 5, when it travels to Buffalo, N.Y. to take on D'Youville College in a 1:00 p.m. game.