Lemont Furnace, PA - The Penn State Fayette women's basketball team opens play Sunday in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II national championship tournament, and the Nittany Lions are looking to take advantage of the home court advantage.
"We are excited to get to play in the USCAA's on our court one more time," Fayette head coach Scott Hillen said. "We are very comfortable here and I hope it gives us the proverbial home-court advantage."
Hillen is happy that his team is one of 10 USCAA Division II teams still in action.
"We are always happy to be playing at this time of the year," he said. "I am excited to see how things go, despite us only having seven players."
Fayette (16-9), is seeded eighth and plays ninth-seeded Andrew University (9-11) out of Berrien Springs, MI.
"You can't look at records and Andrew is playing well right now, which all teams are if they are still playing," Hillen said. "It should be a good game and they have size.
"They almost double us with roster (numbers)."
The game starts at noon.
Fayette is the youngest team in the tournament with four sophomores and three freshmen while not having a junior or senior on the team.
Four players are scoring in double figures. Sophomore Kaitlyn Riley (Charleroi, PA/Charleroi HS) leads the team at 16.7 points per game (PPG) while freshman Taylor McCormick (Laurel, MD/Eleanor Roosevelt HS) is averaging 15.2 PPG, sophomore Dae-lin Burnsworth (Monarch, PA/Connellsville HS) is at 12.3 PPG and freshman Brooke Poling (Perryopolis, PA/Frazier HS) is at 11.1 PPG.
Riley also leads the teams in rebounds per game (8.3) while Poling is at 8.2. McCormick leads the team is assists per game (4.2) and steals per game (3.2) while Burnsworth averages 3.4 assists per game.
Hillen said he is proud of the seven players on the team and is excited to see them gain experience.
"It's been a tough and hard season for our seven," he said. "They battled through injuries and always being smaller in size and numbers.
"Our girls are competitive and if we show up to play and with that competitive attitude, we will be ready for a battle."
The other three players on the team are freshman Anaejah Harris (Uniontown, PA/Albert Gallatin HS), sophomore Carissa Cyphert (Scottsdale, PA/Southmoreland HS) and sophomore Jtaya Pirl (Connellsville, PA/Connellsville HS).
All seven players average at least 15.3 minutes per game.
The winner of the game will face top-seeded Penn State Beaver on Monday at 4:00 p.m. while the loser will play in the consolation bracket Monday at 10:00 a.m. in the ARC gym on campus.
Beaver (24-4) swept Fayette during the season.
Lou Zadecky, the Director of Athletics at Fayette, spoke on the women's team.
"I am excited for the opportunity for our women's team to participate in the USCAA national basketball championships," he said. "Any time you can showcase your team and campus in a championship environment, it is truly a special moment. Hosting is really special because it is at home and in front of our community, family and friends," Zadecky said. "Who could ask for a larger stage to prove yourself against other top teams in the country? We get to do it at home."
Fayette is 8-4 at home this year and this tournament ends a 12-year run of Fayette hosting as the championships will move to Richmond, VA starting next year.
For more information on the women's basketball team, go to https://www.psfathletics.com/sports/wbkb/index or follow us on Instagram @fayetteathletics.