Lady Lions hand out awards at annual banquet

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's basketball team held its annual postseason banquet Saturday (April 28) at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel and honored both players and supporters of the program for their dedication and commitment during the season.

Sophomore guard Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) claimed the Joanie O'Brien Most Outstanding Player Award, while junior guard Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) garnered the Collegiate Pride Defensive Player of the Year Award. Redshirt junior post player Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) took home two awards as she was selected as the Jeanette Goss Courage/Leadership Award winner and the Robin Lombard Award winner in honor of those qualities that exemplify the true spirit of Lady Lion basketball. Sophomore guard/forward Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) and sophomore post player Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) shared the Most Improved Player Award and Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.) received the Tom Caldwell "Unsung Hero" Award. Freshman center Tori Waldner (Milton, Ga.) rounded out the list of student-athlete award winners by earning the Academic Achievement Award.

Susan Leath and the Centre Daily Times were recognized for her outstanding service to Lady Lion basketball with the Hank Gambocurta Award. The Kent Petersen Student Fan of the Year Award was presented to Maddy Pryor, President of the Nittany Nation men's basketball student section and an avid supporter of the Lady Lions, while 99-year old Paul Warnick of Williamsport, Pa. was honored with the Ruth Ingram Award in recognition of a Lady Lion Basketball fan for outstanding enthusiasm and support. Warnick, who will turn 100 on June 5, has been a regular at Lady Lion games for more than 20 years.

Lucas turned in an outstanding sophomore campaign, earning first team All-Big Ten and honorable mention Associated Press All-America honors. The sophomore guard transformed her game to become more of a threat off of the dribble, in addition to her long-range accuracy. Lucas finished third in the conference in scoring at a 19.5 per game clip and was just the fourth different Lady Lion to score more than 600 points in a season with 642 tallies on the year. Lucas was also Top 10 in the league in free throw percentage (.886 - 3rd), three-point field goal percentage (.410 - 3rd) and three-pointers made (2.5 - 2nd). The Narberth, Pa. native is just the third sophomore in school history to reach 1,000 points.

Bentley garnered first team All-Big Ten honors for the second-straight season and also took home honorable mention WBCA All-America accolades. She was second in the Big Ten and in the Top 20 nationally in steals, averaging 3.0 per game. She had six games this season with five or more steals. The Big Ten All-Defensive team choice led Big Ten action with 49 steals in 16 games. She is the first Lady Lion to lead the league in steals since Jess Strom did it in back-to-back years in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Additionally, she was 11th in the conference in scoring (14.1), fourth in assists (4.7) and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4).

Nickson missed nine games and large portions of three other contests this season as she fought through a series of injuries, but still averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. She was named to the NCAA Tournament Kingston All-Region team after tallying 19 points, five rebounds and two steal against eventual National Semifinalist Connecticut. In Big Ten play, Nickson was eighth in rebounding (7.5) and 10th in field goal percentage (.455). She is a two-time team captain for the Lady Lions.

Edwards took on a greater role for the Lady Lions this season, including nine starts. She accounted for 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per outing. Edwards set personal season highs in scoring (202), rebounding (125), assists (32), steals (22), field goal percentage (.329) and blocks (5). Edwards more than doubled her scoring and rebounding output as sophomore and increased her shooting percentage.

East provided the Lady Lions a spark off of the bench as she improved in all facets of the game from her freshman to sophomore seasons. She increased her scoring output by 325% (0.8 to 3.4) and her rebounding average by 300% (1.3 to 5.2) from her rookie campaign to this season. East was third on the team and 20th in the Big Ten in rebounding at a 5.2 per game clip. She also rejected 34 shots on the season, including seven blocks against South Carolina.

Taylor sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules after joining the Lady Lions from Maryland. She was an important part of preparing the Lady Lions for each game as she worked with the practice squad. She was a McDonald's High School All-American out of Caravel Academy and was the 52nd-ranked player by ESPN/HoopGurlz.

Waldner appeared in 31 games and averaged 2.0 points and 2.2 rebounds. She also rejected 18 shots and nabbed 16 steals. The native of Milton, Ga. connected on 44.6% of her shots from the field as a rookie. In the classroom, Waldner maintains a 3.85 grade point average through the fall semester.

2011-12 Lady Lion Basketball Award Winners
Joanie O'Brien Most Outstanding Player Award - Maggie Lucas
Collegiate Pride Defensive Player of the Year - Alex Bentley
Robin Lombard Award - Mia Nickson
Jeanette Goss Courage/Leadership Award - Mia Nickson
Tom Caldwell "Unsung Hero" Award - Dara Taylor
Co-Most Improved Players - Talia East & Ariel Edwards
Academic Achievement Award - Tori Waldner
Hank Gambocurta Award - Susan Leath & the Centre Daily Times
Kent Petersen Student Fan of the Year Award - Maddy Pryor
Ruth Ingram Award - Paul Warnick

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Last Updated May 04, 2012