Brandywine Repeats As PSUAC Women’s Basketball Champion

Back-to-back PSUAC champions
Back-to-back PSUAC champions

MEDIA, Pa. -- Top-seeded Penn State Brandywine earned the Penn State University Athletic Conference women's basketball championship for the second consecutive year after knocking off the No. 2 seed Penn State Lehigh Valley 70-63 in front of its home fans on Sunday afternoon.

Brandywine's victory secured the conference's automatic bid to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in Uniontown, Pa., where the Lions will travel to from Feb. 28-Mar. 3 to play for a national title. The Lions will make their fifth appearance in the USCAA Tournament, the most by any team in Brandywine history.

Brandywine championship is the program's sixth all-time and fourth during Head Coach Larry Johnson's 12-year tenure. Now a six-time PSUAC Coach of the Year after conference awards were announced on Sunday, Johnson has led Brandywine to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history as the Lions stand at 21-6 overall this season.

The Lions, who defeated Lehigh Valley for the third time this winter, led nearly wire-to-wire after using a 12-0 run early in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead.

Lehigh Valley had narrowed the margin to one point by halftime at 32-31, but Brandywine used a balanced attack in the third quarter and outscored the visitors 21-11 during the period to vault in front 53-42 with 10 minutes to play. Eight players saw the floor for Brandywine during the third stanza and all eight made exactly one bucket from the field, while holding Lehigh Valley to just three made field goals on 11 attempts.

Brandywine maintained its 11-point lead until the final four minutes of the fourth quarter when Lehigh Valley made a bid for one final comeback, scoring seven-straight points.

With the score 63-59 and 1:05 remaining on the clock, Madison D'Ambrosio (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) knocked down two free throws to up the Lions' lead to six points. Lehigh Valley answered with a pair of free throws and later pulled within four again when Nikita Brady sank a layup with 33 seconds to play.

With Lehigh Valley forced to foul, Brandi James (Glenolden, Pa./Interboro) sank a pair from the charity stripe and Kendra Stanford (Philadelphia, Pa./William Bodine) added one more free throw, while the Lions' defense forced a pair of missed shots to help Brandywine secure a second-straight PSUAC crown.

Nikki Velez (Gloucester, N.J./Gloucester City), a first team all-conference pick, led all scorers with 20 points, while James, who earned second team accolades, collected 12 points and nine rebounds. Stanford chipped in eight points, six boards and five steals and Chrissy Gledhill (Secane, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara) added eight points.

Brandywine buried seven triples and shot 41 percent from the field. Both teams pulled in 36 rebounds.

Brandywine will find out its first-round opposition and its seed in the national tournament when the USCAA reveals the women's bracket online Tuesday evening at 5:00 pm.