BEAVER FALLS, Pa. – A 27-point first quarter helped the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team win its season opener on Wednesday night, defeating Geneva College 82-63 in the Metheny Fieldhouse.
Penn State Altoona (1-0) built a big 27-10 advantage by the end of the first quarter, during which the team shot 53.8 percent (7-for-13) from the field, including going 3-for-4 from three-point range. The Lady Lions never looked back, maintaining their lead the rest of the way and cruising to the 19-point victory.
"It feels great to open with a win. We did a lot of really nice things tonight and showed such unselfish play – at times, a little too unselfish," said Penn State Altoona head coach Casey Wilt. "We ended with 20 assists, and our scoring was relatively balanced, which speaks to the level of our ball distribution. Our first quarter set the tone in a big way, when we shot 53.8 percent from the field and 75 percent from behind the arc."
Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) had a big night for Penn State Altoona at both ends of the floor, posting a double-double with a game-high 23 points and team-high 12 rebounds. Her scoring effort included going 10-for-12 from the free throw line and shooting 6-for-10 from the field. Cannistraci also finished with a game-high five steals while contributing three assists and two blocks.
Sydney Snyder (New Enterprise, PA/Northern Bedford) added 12 points, and Finnley Christine (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) scored 11 points while recording four steals, three rebounds, and three assists. Alivia Borlie (Belsano, PA/Bishop Carroll) came off the bench to tie her career-high with 10 points, and Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) led all players in the game with six assists while also posting nine rebounds, eight points, and a team-high three blocks.
"Lex showed up big time, ending with a double-double. It's nice to see her get to the free throw line as much as she did, where she shot 83 percent. Paige was close to a double-double with nine rebounds and eight points. She'll get one this year, I'm certain of it," Wilt said. "Liv and Kass [Kassidy Sorichetti] came off the bench and gave us a big lift defensively. Liv got it done offensively, as well. She played great, one of her best games."
Geneva (0-1) was led in scoring by Emily Melnek, who finished with 18 points. The Golden Tornadoes also got a 17-rebound, 15-point effort from Lauren Tipton, as well as 13 points from Isabella Roth.
After Geneva had started the game by grabbing a 5-2 lead, Penn State Altoona jumped ahead midway through the first quarter when Burk's layup at 6:39 put the visitors up 6-5. After a layup from Cannistraci, Snyder hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to extend the Lady Lions' lead to 14-7. Burk's three-pointer and Borlie's layup increased their team's lead to 19-10 by 4:31, and free throws from Christine, Borlie, Chloe Inman (Annville, PA/Annville-Cleona), Kassidy Sorichetti (Halifax, PA/Halifax), Cannistraci, and Sarah Huston (Coatesville, PA/Coatesville) combined to tack nine more points on to Penn State Altoona's total by the end of the period.
In the second quarter, Geneva trimmed its deficit to eight points on two different occasions. Roth's jumper at 7:30 made it 27-19, and Tipton's layup at 5:08 narrowed Penn State Altoona's lead to 29-21. But the Lady Lions did not allow Geneva to get any closer, and late three-pointers from Burk and Cannistraci helped Penn State Altoona get back to a 16-point lead, 41-25, by halftime.
Penn State Altoona picked up where it left off in the third quarter, as Snyder and Christine each connected from three-point range to increase their team's lead to 47-25 by 8:45, establishing the Lady Lions' largest lead of the game. Later in the quarter, another Snyder trey and layups from Christine and Borlie gave Penn State Altoona a 21-point advantage, 61-40, heading into the game's final period.
Cannistraci and Kaley Strittmatter (Williamsburg, PA/Penn Cambria) combined for 15 of Penn State Altoona's 21 points during the fourth quarter, helping their team hold a comfortable lead. Back-to-back Strittmatter layups made it 68-51 by 6:42, and baskets from Cannistraci, Sorichetti, and Strittmatter helped put the difference at 75-57 with 3:17 remaining.
Penn State Altoona finished the game with statistical advantages over Geneva in assists (20-14), turnovers (22-30), points off turnovers (24-19), points in the paint (30-18), fastbreak points (9-5), and bench points (22-15).
"We need to clean up the little things, like taking care of the ball and hitting the boards offensively," said Wilt. "If we can make those adjustments along with tightening up our defense, I think we will be able to challenge our opponents on an even higher level."
Next up, the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team hosts its home opener this Friday, November 15 at 6:00 p.m. against Saint Vincent College.
"I'm proud of this group of ladies. They've been working hard, and it paid off for them," said Wilt. "We need to come in focused tomorrow and be ready to work so that we're prepared for a very skilled St. Vincent team on Friday."
Friday night's game is Mountain Lion Backpack Night in the Adler Athletic Complex. All fans who bring items to donate to the Mountain Lion Backpack Program will receive free admission to the game. For more information on the program and suggested food items to donate, visit www.mountainlionbackpackprogram.org.