Brandywine Rolls Into Final; Looks To Repeat As Champion

Crystal Miller
Crystal Miller

MEDIA, Pa. -- For the second-straight season, Penn State Brandywine will play for the Penn State University Athletic Conference women's basketball championship as the top-seeded Lions cruised past No. 4 Penn State Schuylkill by a score of 89-54 in the tournament semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Brandywine (20-6) reached the PSUAC championship game for the seventh time in 12 years under Head Coach Larry Johnson and will look to win its fourth crown during his tenure. The Lions will face the winner of Saturday night's Penn State Lehigh Valley-Penn State Beaver game on Sunday at 3:30 pm on their home floor.

Schuylkill entered the game allowing its opponents to score just over 56 points per outing, but Brandywine shot over 48 percent from the field during the game and knocked down nine three-pointers, while surrending 37 percent shooting to the visitors.

Eleven different Lions produced at least one made basket, led by a 20-point outing from Nikki Velez (Gloucester, N.J./Gloucester City). Velez buried 5-of-6 triples and 7-of-9 shots overall during 23 minutes of action.

Brandi James (Glenolden, Pa./Interboro) chipped in 18 points and five rebounds, while Alyssa Abbonizio (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) tallied 10 points and eight boards. Crystal Miller (Pleasant Valley, N.Y./Arlington) added eight points and seven rebounds and Ali Wilson (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Hubert's) shot 3-3 from the field for seven points.

Brandywine trailed 6-4, but held Schuylkill scoreless for the next 8:07 as the Lions ran out to a 14-point lead. Back-to-back triples by Velez pushed Brandywine in front 15-6, while Chrissy Gledhill (Secane, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara) capped the 16-0 Lions' surge by canning a jumper with 38 seconds to play in the first quarter.

A layup by Velez, two free throws from James, and bucket from Miller pushed the lead to 17 points midway through the second period. Schuylkill got as close as 13 points down, but Velez countered with a triple and two minutes later, Abbonizio pushed the margin back to 19 points with a basket.

Brandywine continued to roll in the second half, knocking down four triples during the third quarter as the advantage moved to 28 points through 30 minutes. The Lions' lead reached its largest at 42 points when Chantel Hatton (Philadelphia, Pa./Chester) knocked down two free throws with 2:20 to play in the game.

Brandywine, which defeated Schuylkill for the 13th-straight meeting, has won 20 games in a season for the fourth time in the last 12 years. Three of the Lions' 20 victories came against their possible competition in the title round as Brandywine swept two games from Penn State Lehigh Valley and defeated Beaver handly in January.