BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's basketball team defeated La Roche, 78-69, in the first round of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship Tournament Wednesday at the KOA Arena.
With the victory, the Panthers advance to the tournament semifinals to face second-seeded Mount Aloysius. Top-seeded Hilbert will host both semifinals games Saturday as well as the championship game Sunday.
"We fought hard today," Head Coach Sharay Hall said. "We came out to an amazing start, but our intensity dwindled in the fourth quarter. However, we pulled out the win. We are not satisfied yet, though. A championship is what we desire, so therefore we'll be back to work at practice tomorrow to prepare for Mount Aloysius."
Ali Rinfrette led Pitt-Bradford with 24 points and also dished six assists.
Jennifer Isenberg dropped 18 points and was one board shy of a double-double with a game-leading nine rebounds.
This will be the first time since the 2009-10 season that La Roche will not be the conference champion as the Redhawks had claimed the AMCC title for the last seven-straight years.
In front of a raucous KOA Arena crowd, the Panthers got off to a red-hot start, outscoring La Roche, 25-9, in the opening quarter.
All five Pitt-Bradford starters scored at least four points in the first quarter, led by Rinfrette with seven.
With the Panthers holding a 6-4 lead at the 6:35 mark, Pitt-Bradford ripped off a 13-1 run capped by a layup from Isenberg to go ahead 19-5 at the 2:42 mark.
The Panthers turned up the defensive intensity in the final minute of the first.
Wells and Rinfrette both collected steals that turned into points to help Pitt-Bradford exit the first quarter with a 25-9 advantage.
The Panther defense forced eight La Roche turnovers in the opening quarter and shot 50 percent on 11 of 22 attempts.
The second quarter saw a more evenly matched offensive game on both sides, but not before the Panthers would extend their lead even further.
At the 6:49 mark, a layup from Isenberg put the Panthers ahead, 31-13.
La Roche would settle in and the two teams would even out offensively, but the Panthers were still able to build on their lead heading into overtime, outscoring the Redhawks 16-12 in the period to go into the break ahead, 41-21.
The Redhawks came out in the second half strong and the two teams put together an even third quarter with La Roche narrowly outscoring the Panthers, 18-16.
After three-straight La Roche points in the final minute and a half of the third, Aiyana Waddell knocked down a three-pointer to get them all back on the Panthers final possession of the third to send Pitt-Bradford into the fourth ahead, 57-39.
La Roche put together its strongest quarter of the game in the fourth, though.
The Pitt-Bradford lead hovered around 20 points in the early minutes of the quarter until a 9-2 La Roche run cut the Panther lead to 69-59 with two minutes left in regulation.
But Wells put an end to the threat real fast as she took an in-bounds pass through the La Roche press and went up in transition, making the basket while drawing the foul.
The three-point play put the Panthers ahead, 72-59.
La Roche hung around, though, but the Panthers made their free throws down the stretch to hold off the Redhawks in a tough, physical fourth quarter.
Pitt-Bradford won the rebounding battle, 41-39. Etreece Adams pulled down eight boards to closely follow Isenberg's lead.
Adams also blocked two shots while Isenberg sent back three.
The Panthers grabbed 17 offensive boards and turned them into 20 second-chance points.
Saturday's semifinal game is set for a 3:30 p.m. tip-off at Hilbert.