Lemont Furnace, PA -The Penn State Fayette women's basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the USCAA Division II women's national championship tournament with a thrilling 67-62 win over Southern Maine C.C. Sunday.
"It was a great team effort," Fayette head coach Scott Hillen said. "This is a huge win for the team and the program.
"Everyone stepped up when they needed to and we were able to make the smart plays in the end."
The Nittany Lions (14-14) jumped out to an early 8-1 lead halfway through the first, but the SeaWolves (22-6) closed the quarter on a 10-3 run to trim the Fayette advantage to a single point, 12-11.
SMCC took its first lead of the game on the first possession of the second on a Lauryn Fagan jumper. The teams exchanged the lead over the next minute and when Siteri Tale (Uniontown/Laurel Highlands HS) hit a layup with 8:22 to go in the half off of an assist by Lyndsey Huhn (California, PA/California HS), it would be the last lead change of the game.
Fayette led by six points three times during the quarter and held a slim 28-26 lead at halftime.
The SeaWolves tied the game in the first minute of the third, but a layup by Shelbie Brown (Camden, OH/Preble Shawnee HS) and a three-pointer from Carissa Cyphert (Scottsdale, PA/Southmoreland HS) gave the hosts a 33-28 lead with 7:39 to play in the quarter.
Twice in the quarter, Fayette led by seven points but SMCC was able to trim the score down to three points at 48-45 on an Amanda Brett layup with 0:18 left in the quarter, but Kaitlyn Riley (Charleroi, PA/Charleroi HS) extended the lead to five points on a layup just before the frame ended and Fayette led going into the fourth, 50-45.
The Nittany Lions opened the fourth on a 6-0 run and when Tale made one of two free throws with 7:37 to play, it gave Fayette its biggest lead of the game at 59-47.
SMCC took control and went on a 14-3 run to make the score 62-61 with 2:30 to play. Hillen took a timeout to talk to his team.
After the timeout, Tale missed a jumper on and then SMCC missed a chance to take the lead when Fagan turned the ball over.
Dae-lin Burnsworth (Monarch, PA/Connellsville HS) hit a jumper with 1:23 to play to extend the Fayette lead to 64-61. Tale made a solid defensive play on SMCC's ensuing possession and stole the ball. Burnsworth was fouled after getting the ball from Tale and calmly hit both free throws to give the hosts a 66-61 lead with 0:45 to play.
Each team hit a free throw in the closing 30 seconds to make the score 67-62.
Burnsworth (16), Riley (16) and Huhn (11) all scored in double figures for Fayette while Tale had a game-high 18 rebounds and three blocks, Riley had five steals and Burnsworth had five assists.
Brett led SMCC with 23 points while Fagan had 19 off of the bench.
Fayette shots 36.8% (25-68) for the game while SMCC shot 29.6% (21-71).
The Nittany Lions forced 17 turnovers while giving the ball away 13 times and held a 32-24 advantage in the paint while the SeaWolves held the rebounding advantage (56-50), second chance points (17-12) and in bench points (19-10).
With the win, Fayette advances to play top-seeded Villa Maria (24-3) in the quarterfinals Monday.
The Vikings have the fourth-ranked offense in the USCAA at 9.1. pointe per game.
Tipoff at 4:00 p.m.
For more information on the national championships, go to http://basketball.theuscaa.com/landing/index.
For more information on the women's basketball team, go to https://www.psfathletics.com/sports/wbkb/index.
Written by Bill Hughes