ALTOONA, Pa. – Fifth seed Penn State Behrend rallied past the fourth-seeded Penn State Altoona women's basketball team in Thursday night's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference first round game, overcoming a sluggish start to prevail 67-60 in the Adler Arena.
Penn State Altoona (12-13) had Behrend on the ropes early, building a 23-10 lead midway through the second quarter. But Behrend (11-15) found a way to turn things around, outscoring Penn State Altoona 57-37 the rest of the way.
Behrend benefitted from key Penn State Altoona foul trouble, and the visitors also implemented an effective press that kept the Lady Lions' offense off balance.
"Any loss hurts, but this one just stings more than others. We started off well, but we quickly found ourselves in foul trouble, and the momentum shifted," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. "Congratulations to Behrend. We wish them the best as they continue their playoff run."
Penn State Altoona was led in scoring by Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel), who finished with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, and a game-high five steals. Emily Lehman (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) put up a season-high 15 points off the bench, and Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) tied the game-high in rebounds with 11.
Jessica Stevens (Altoona, PA/Altoona) added eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals, and Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) had eight points and five boards. Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) tied the game-high in assists with four.
"Emily Lehman had a phenomenal night, hands down her best game this year. Her play helped keep us in the game," said Wilt. "Kay and Paige stepped up, as well. Kay hit some shots when we needed them and did a very nice job on the boards for us. Paige found balance offensively by driving to the rim, as well as hitting the long ball."
Behrend got a game-high 18 points from Kara Haslett, while Alanna Dibble finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks. Ashley Seamon chipped in 12 points for the visitors, and Caitlin Carnuche scored 11.
Penn State Altoona pleased Thursday's strong crowd by jumping out to a 17-8 lead by the end of the first quarter, limiting Behrend to just a 2-for-15 performance from the floor during the period. Tied 4-4, the Lady Lions used a 9-0 run to go up 13-4. Layups from Lehman and Christine in the period's final 31 seconds kept the home team up by nine points at the conclusion of the game's opening quarter.
The Lady Lions kept rolling through the first part of the second quarter. Lehman's layup and foul shot at 8:45 started the scoring in the period, and a jumper from Cannistraci and foul shot by Strittmatter put Penn State Altoona up 23-10 – its largest lead of the evening – by the 6:50 mark.
But Behrend began to find some traction, outscoring Penn State Altoona 13-6 over the rest of the quarter. Back-to-back layups by Seamon and a three-pointer from Haslett brought the visitors to within six points, 25-19, with 4:37 left. Baskets from Dibble cut the Lady Lions' lead to 27-23 with 49 seconds to go in the half.
Lehman's free throws with 20 seconds remaining until the intermission helped Penn State Altoona take a 29-23 lead into the locker room.
Penn State Altoona was able to fend off Behrend early in the third quarter, maintaining a modest lead. Burk's three-pointer and Strittmatter's foul shot gave the Lady Lions a 33-28 advantage by the 7:11 mark.
After Behrend briefly grabbed the lead, Penn State Altoona responded to take it back in the latter stages of the third quarter. Down by two, Lehman's layup and Burk's three-pointer put the Lady Lions up 40-37 by 2:09. Lehman converted a three-point play at 1:21 to make it 43-37.
Behrend finished the quarter with five straight points, however, getting two free throws from Dibble and a trey by Carnuche to cut Penn State Altoona's lead to 43-42 heading into the fourth.
Penn State Altoona and Behrend went back-and-forth through the first part of the fourth quarter, before the visitors pulled away in the game's closing minutes.
Burk connected from beyond the arc at 8:57 to tie the score 46-46 after Behrend had gone up by three early in the period. Behrend again took the lead, but Strittmatter's jumper at 5:17 kept the Lady Lions within two points, 52-50.
Behrend increased its lead to six, but Penn State Altoona got back to within two points following a Strittmatter foul shot and Burk three-pointer that cut the Lady Lions' deficit to 56-54 with 2:01 to play.
But Behrend posted an 11-6 scoring advantage over Penn State Altoona for the rest of the game to ice the victory. Foul shots from Carnuche and Beamesderfer's jumper put Behrend up 60-54 with 42 seconds remaining. Seamon, Haslett, and Beamesderfer combined to go 7-for-8 from the line in the game's final 32 seconds to seal the outcome.
Behrend advances in the AMCC Tournament to play top seed La Roche College this Saturday, February 23 at 12:00 p.m. in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Penn State Altoona will hope for a bid into the Eastern College Athletic Conference's Division III Championship Tournament.
"We're going to take tomorrow off," said Wilt. "Then, we'll get back in the gym Saturday, as we hope for an ECAC bid."