By: Jennifer Jones
Director of Sports Information
firstname.lastname@example.org • juniatasports.net
Photo: TJ Chance-Chin
HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata College women's basketball improved to 12-11 overall Saturday afternoon after routing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 80-40. The Eagles are now 5-7 in Landmark Conference play and sit in a tie for fourth in the league. They are 13-1 all-time against Merchant Marine who fell to 4-18 overall, 0-12 in Landmark play, with the loss.
"The girls took care of business," said head coach Danny Young-Uhrich. "They went into the game confident and took care of business. I'm really proud of the direction where the girls are headed. I've always felt that we are a playoff team. The way the girls are ending is uplifting. It's what the seniors deserve; it's what the team deserves, and what the program deserves. All you need is one playoff spot to win a conference championship. That's what the girls play for."
Juniata held Merchant Marine to just 16 first half points for the second time this year. It marked the fourth time this season the Eagles have held an opponent to under 20 first half points. They also outrebounded the Mariners and scored 28 points off of Merchant Marine's 25 turnovers.
The Eagles were led by sophomore Paige Dennison (East Berlin, Pa./Bermudian Springs). The guard finished with a game-high 22 points shooting 60 percent from the floor and going a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Two other Eagles picked up double-figure points. Junior Kelsey Livoti (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) and senior Jordan Hileman (Williamsburg, Pa./Williamsburg) netted 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Senior Kate McDonald (Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa./State College Area) was one rebound away from another double-double. She finished with a game and career-high 11 assists and tied for the game-high of nine rebounds.
Hileman scored the first bucket of the game just 14 seconds after tipoff. The Mariners leading scorer Demi VanDerWal then gave Merchant Marine the one point lead off a three 20 seconds later. Livoti tied the game at 3-all with the clock at 19:02 and Juniata never looked back. The Eagles went on a 27-6 run over the next nine minutes to take the 29-9 lead.
Merchant Marine began trading baskets and a layup with 4:19 remaining in the half pulled them within 18, the closest they would be for the remainder of the contest. But it would be their last field goal before the break as Juniata closed out on a 9-1 run to go into halftime up 42-16. The Eagles shot over 51 percent from the floor as team in the first half with 12 points from the bench.
In the second half, Juniata would not let Merchant Marine closer than 25 points, opening with a 13-5 run to pull ahead 55-21. They would lead by as many as 42 points en route to their third straight Landmark win.
It was senior day in Memorial Gymnasium and the Eagles recognized Hileman and McDonald pre-game. The pair have amassed 78 wins, winning 72-percent of their games, helped Juniata to two 20-win seasons and a Landmark Conference championship over the course of their four years.
"To tell you the truth, it snuck up on me, senior day," said Young-Uhrich. I'm glad I didn't really fathom the day and think about too hard. It makes you feel old when you see four years go by so quickly. I'm glad they did well. I'm glad our team won. And I'm glad that they were able to perform really well. It's just good to see both of them step up and really play well and smile. It's fun from our perspective to see them out there having fun."
Hileman is among the program's all-time career 3-point field goal leaders. She currently ranks nationally for assists per game and assists to turnover ratio. A valuable presence on the court, she leads the team in minutes played, averaging over 34 per game this season. Coach Young-Uhrich described her as tough, reliable, and a finisher.
McDonald is no stranger to the record books herself. She ranks top 10 all-time in five different categories including second in points and rebounds. This year, she cemented place in Juniata basketball history by becoming only the third player, male or female, to earn 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. She ranks nationally in eight different categories and leads the Landmark in double-doubles, rebounds per game, and steals per game. Coach Young-Uhrich described her as athletic, passionate, and relentless.
Juniata remains in Huntingdon next for its final home game of the season. The Eagles play host to Susquehanna University this coming Wednesday, Feb. 19 in a matchup that has serious playoff implications. The winner of the matchup will continue to have postseason hopes, while the other will have them dashed. Juniata is 11-10 overall against the Crusaders under Young-Uhrich. Tipoff for the contest is at 7 p.m. in the Kennedy Sports+Recreation Center.
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