Lions Hold Off Warren Wilson Comeback Bid; Move Into National Semifinals

Kendra Stanford
Kendra Stanford

UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- Penn State Brandywine saw its 22-point lead evaporate, but a late three-pointer from Nikki Velez (Gloucester, N.J./Gloucester City) sent the game to overtime and the Lions held on to defeat Warren Wilson College 73-70, advancing to the semifinal round of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Women's Basketball Tournament on Thursday night.

Making its fifth appearance at the USCAA Tournament, Brandywine has reached the semifinals for the first time. The fifth-seeded Lions will battle top-seeded Central Maine College on Friday night at 9:00 pm with a victory sending the team to Saturday's national title tilt.

Brandywine jumped on the Owls early, netting the first six points of the game. The Lions, who limited Warren Wilson to 2-of-17 shooting during the opening period, extended their lead to 12 points by the end of the first quarter after Kendra Stanford (Philadelphia, Pa./William Bodine) converted a three-point play and Crystal Miller (Pleasant Valley, N.Y./Arlington) added a layup during the final 1:23 of the period.

Warren Wilson cut the deficit to seven points early in the second quarter, but Alyssa Abbonizio (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) and Velez answered by knocking down back-to-back triples for the Lions. Forty-seven seconds later, a Velez jumper started a 12-0 Brandywine surge that stretched the lead to 22 points.

However, Warren Wilson netted the final three points of the first half and then stormed back into the game by outscoring Brandywine 31-10 during the third quarter. The Owls took their first lead of the contest at the conclusion of the third period when Allison Church connected on a triple, capping a 9-0 Owls' run.

Brandi James' (Glenolden, Pa./Interboro) jumper quickly tied the score at 54-54 just 30 seconds into the final stanza, but Kalie Mayo countered with a three-pointer, giving Warren Wilson a lead that it would hold until regulation's final seconds.

With the Lions trailing 66-62 and 21 seconds remaining, Stanford sank a layup while being fouled and knocked down a free throw to complete the three-point play. WWC pushed its lead back to three points by hitting two shots from the charity stripe, but Velez sent the game to overtime by burying a game-tying triple with 10 seconds to go. Brandywine forced a pair of missed shots by the Owls during the final five seconds, extending the game an extra five minutes.

In overtime, Madison D'Ambrosio (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) put Brandywine in front with a layup, but Church answered with a bucket for Warren Wilson at the 3:10 mark; however, that would be the final points of the night for the Owls, who misfired on their final eight shots of the game.

Brandywine needed only one made field goal during the extra session to win as D'Ambrosio sank a free throw with 49 seconds remaining to lift the Lions into the lead and Velez added two more free throws with under 20 seconds to go, providing the final margin.

Stanford and D'Ambrosio both posted double-doubles to pace Brandywine. Stanford produced a 16-point, 12-rebound performance, while D'Ambrosio coupled 14 points with 11 rebounds.

Velez added 15 points and seven boards and James contributed 14 points.

Brandywine scored 34 points in the paint and limited Warren Wilson to 32 percent shooting from the field, including 4-of-28 marksmanship from beyond the arc. The Lions shot 39 percent from the floor and knocked down 18 free throws.

Brandywine, which won its second-straight PSUAC title in February, earned its 22nd victory of the season, matching the single-season program record set by the 2016-17 squad.