MONT ALTO, Pa. - No. 19 Penn State Fayette outscored defending champion Penn State Brandywine 7-1 over the final 2:09 of regulation en route to an exciting 77-75 win that captured the program's first ever Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament championship in Penn State Mont Alto's Multipurpose Activities Center.
A back-and-forth contest saw the score tied six times and the lead change hands 14 times, including sophomore Jill Guthrie's (Uniontown, Pa.) 14-foot jumper with 0:21 seconds remaining that gave the Roaring Lions the final lead change at 76-75.
The no. 1-seed Roaring Lions used the late surge to take the lead after trailing for nearly five minutes, and Brandywine's final shot bounced off the back of the rim and junior Kaitlyn Novak (Bobtown, Pa.) grabbed the rebound to run out the clock as her teammates rushed to the middle of the floor as the horn sounded.
Guthrie finished with a career-high 20 rebounds, and led all scorers with 26 points on 11-for-28 shooting, including the game winner. Freshman Caitlin Wontroba (Uniontown, Pa.) added 16 points while senior Jennifer Thomas (Uniontown, Pa.) added 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Fayette jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, but Brandywine used an 11-0 run to lead 13-6 with 12:11 left in the first half. Fayette bounced back and used a 14-6 run of their own over the next five minutes to grab a 20-19 advantage. Trading baskets gave Brandywine a 26-24 lead, but Fayette answered with another run, this time a 12-2 spurt that gave them a 36-28 lead with 2:35 remaining in the first stanza. Fayette would ultimately take a 39-33 lead into halftime after two free throws from Wontroba and one from junior Kasey Ruble (Fairchance, Pa.).
The Roaring Lions led 45-38 early in the second half, but Brandywine used a 16-2 spurt to grab a 54-47 lead midway through the second half. Fayette would answer again with a 13-5 run, and again the teams would trade lead for the next two minutes. Brandywine led 74-68 with 2:21 to play but the Roaring Lions would answer with their final run.
Brandywine, the tournament's no. 3-seed, committed two costly turnovers in the final 0:50 seconds, including a steal by Ruble with the Lady Lions leading 75-72. Wontroba connected on two free throws to cut the Fayette deficit to one, and another Brandywine turnover led to Guthrie's final jumper.
Swinging the ball to Guthrie on the wing, she drove, stepped through two defenders and hit a leaner that barely hit the iron as it went through the hoop. Brandywine was then called for an offensive foul as Cashae Hinton crashed into Novak on a drive to the basket. Ruble, who finished with 10 points and seven assists, was fouled on the ensuing Fayette possession and hit one of her two free throws to give Fayette the two-point cushion. Brandywine got through Fayette's defensive pressure and Brandywine's Amanda Congialdi took a shot from the elbow, but the last gasp was no good.
Brandywine (16-11, 13-4 PSUAC) outshot the Roaring Lions 51 percent to 38 percent, but Fayette got several second chance opportunities to take 24 more shots than the Lady Lions. Fayette also forced 32 Brandywine turnovers, but Fayette struggled to hold onto the ball as well, committing 25 giveaways of their own. Guthrie helped Fayette hold a 44-32 advantage in scoring in the paint, and capitalized with 34 points off of Brandywine's turnovers.
The Lady Lions were led by Amanda Congialdi with 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead five Brandywine players in double figures. Cashae Hinton added 15 points and four assists for Brandywine.
Fayette's win adds to their record breaking season, as the Roaring Lions captured their first regular season championship and set a program record for wins.
The Roaring Lions will now play on Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the first round of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Basketball Championships at Penn State Fayette. The Roaring Lions have earned the conference's automatic berth, which supercedes their automatic host bid.