CRESSON - Already sitting with three losses in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference standings, Mount Aloysius coach Kristi Kaack knows that every win at this point of the season matters.
Even when a winless team comes to town.
Led by Becky Bard's 18 points, Lindsy Sammarco's 16 and a suffocating defense, the Mounties were able to hold off pesky Penn State Altoona, 64-50, on Wednesday night.
Mount Aloysius (7-6, 4-3 AMCC), which moved into a tie for fifth place with Pitt-Greensburg in the AMCC, forced the Lady Lions into 30 turnovers.
"Defensively, we had a lot of energy," said Kaack, whose team won its fourth straight. "We came out ready to play on the defensive end and ultimately that's what got us the win."
"We haven't had a win, and it's tough," Penn State Altoona coach Donna Kling said. "We're battling ourselves mentally as much as we're battling the other team. I think that's probably the best explanation I can give."
Penn State Altoona (0-14, 0-8) threatened late, though, and got to within seven after going on a 16-4 run midway through the second half.
Kylie O'Toole had six of her 10 points, and Tiffany Seasoltz had seven of her team-high 15 points during the stretch.
At the same time, Mount Aloysius went on field goal droughts of 4:29 and 4:07, where it committed a majority of its 15 turnovers for the game.
"We were shooting within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock when we were up 15 [points]," Kaack said. "So we told them to value the ball on offense because we were leading."
"It's always hard to run uphill in wet sand, which is kind of what happens when a team gets a big lead like that," Kling said of falling short during her team's rally. "It exhausts you. Then every shot, every possession becomes so significant."
Tamara Thomas had a double-double for the Lady Lions with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Both Thomas and Seasoltz have only been back with the team for a week, according to Kling.
"They had eligibility left, and their class load lets them play, so we're doing everything we can," Kling said. "It's significant having them back because they've been here before."
Morgan Brosnihan ended the Lady Mounties' second drought with a 3-pointer from the left side - her only field goal of the game - reestablishing the double-digit lead after Sammarco connected on four free throws.
"She came in our game on Saturday and hit two big free throws," Kaack said of Brosnihan. "She's just known to come in and hit the big shot. She's not afraid to shoot it, and that's what makes Morgan so valuable to us off the bench."
Lack of scoring has been a theme for the Lady Lions this season.
They have scored 45 points or less in 10 of their 14 losses and have failed to even reach the 40s four times.
And the losses haven't even been close.
Penn State Altoona has lost every game except one by double digits - and eight-point setback at Hilbert on Dec. 8.
But a major culprit to the Lady Lions' lack of success is some pretty significant adversity.
"The majority of the kids that are playing were supposed to be coming in as subs and learning Division III basketball," Kling explained. "But some [veterans] changed majors. We have three starters that didn't come back because they were graduating early. A couple of transfers didn't work out. So a couple of kids that we thought were going to be role players have had to step up.
"It's a huge adjustment. We're asking kids to play out of position. It's almost like the perfect storm for us right now."
Mount Aloysius, meanwhile, will likely be in the thick of playoff discussions as the season winds down.
The Lady Mounties travel to Pitt-Bradford (6-6, 4-2) on Saturday and to Franciscan (3-11, 2-5) on Monday before hosting Pitt-Greensburg (6-8, 4-3) next Wednesday in what could be a critical stretch for the battle to stay within the top six in the conference.
"We're trying to tell them that we're the middle-man right now," Kaack said of her team's position in the AMCC standings. "To host a playoff game, we have to win all of these games."
Two significant hurdles Mount Aloysius will have to face this month - and potentially in the postseason - are AMCC leaders La Roche (12-1, 7-0) and Medaille (8-5, 6-1).
The Lady Mounties lost to the conference frontrunners by a combined 85 points the first time through the league schedule, and Kaack is hoping her team has a little more success to end the regular season series with each team.
"La Roche is extremely talented at every position. Medaille, we just didn't show up for that game," Kaack said. "I wasn't there for either one, so hopefully being there this time around will help them get a little more energized to compete."
Kaack was on maternity leave for a portion of the season. Her son, Brayden, was born on Dec. 10.
"It was tough [to not be on the bench]," she said. "I mean, I was excited because it was my first child. Obviously, my heart was with the girls for every game, I just couldn't be there."
Kaack's husband and assistant coach, Adam, led the team in her absence, but there hasn't been much of a transition period for the former Altoona Area High School and Duquesne University standout.
"Basketball has been my life since I was born, so it was pretty easy for me to just get right back into the gym and be ready to go," Kaack said. "I think it was harder for the girls to adjust to me than it was for me to adjust to them."
PENN STATE ALTOONA (0-14, 0-8): O'Toole 5-13 0-0 10, Strouse 2-6 0-0 4, Corrigan 0-4 0-2 0, Edwards 1-7 0-0 2, Thomas 4-9 2-2 10, Heller 0-0 0-0 0, Hoffman 2-9 4-6 8, Stunz 0-1 1-2 1, Seasoltz 5-8 2-2 15. Totals 19-57 9-14 50.
MOUNT ALOYSIUS (7-6, 4-3): Bard 8-24 1-2 18, Restori 2-4 1-2 5, Burkett 1-6 1-2 3, Sammarco 5-17 5-5 16, Rupp 3-6 1-2 8, Lechner 0-0 0-0 0, Bender 0-1 0-0 0, Tellish 2-4 0-0 5, Colmer 0-2 2-2 2, Brosnihan 1-6 0-0 3, Cox 0-0 0-0 0, Barto 0-0 0-0 0, O'Donald 1-3 0-0 2, Roop 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-75 11-15 64.
Halftime-Mount Aloysius 35-23. 3-point goals-Penn State Altoona 3-6 (Seasoltz 3-5, Strouse 0-1), Mount Aloysius 5-26 (Tellish 1-1, Rupp 1-2, Brosnihan 1-5, Bard 1-7, Sammarco 1-7, Bender 0-1, O'Donald 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Penn State Altoona 41 (Thomas 12), Mount Aloysius 39 (Burkett 8). Assists-Penn State Altoona 12 (Thomas 4), Mount Aloysius 19 (Restori 8). Total fouls-Penn State Altoona 15, Mount Aloysius 15. A-125.