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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; April 11, 2016 -- Putting an entire basketball season into words isn't always the easiest thing to do, but on Monday (April 11) evening at the Penn State Hotel and Conference Center, Penn State women's basketball head coach Coquese Washington tried to do so at the annual Lady Lions Senior Awards Banquet.
The 2015-16 season was one of ups and downs, twists and turns, and many great moments that point towards success in the near future thanks to a standard of hard work set by the departing seniors and a talented group of returning student-athletes.
Of the six individual award winners, five of them return next season, including the Joanie O'Brien Most Outstanding Player, freshman Teniya Page (Chicago, Ill.), Most Improved Player & Academic Achievement Award, junior Peyton Whitted (Suwanee, Ga.), and Jeannette Goss Courage/Leadership Award winner, junior Kaliyah Mitchell (Stone Mountain, Ga.). The freshmen walk on duo of Leah Knizner (Greenburg, Pa.) and Sarah McMurtry (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was honored as the Tom Caldwell "Unsung Hero" Award and Robin Lombard "Spirit" Award winners, respectively.
Senior Brianna Banks (Newnan, Ga.) earned the Collegiate Pride Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the team in steals, while the trio of Susan Lingenfelter, Anne Stover and John Diercks were honored with the Cager Club Awards from their support of Penn State women's basketball. Lingenfelter was honored as the Ruth Ingram Fan of the Year, Stove was named the Kent Petersen Student Fan of the Year Award and Diercks was bestowed the Hank Gambocurta Service Award.
The following awards were also handed out by the Lady Lion program and the Lady Lion Cager Club in front of a supportive crowd in the Presidential Hall of the Penn Stater.
Joanie O'Brien Most Outstanding Player Award
Teniya Page | Fr. | Chicago, Ill.
The only freshman in the NCAA to average 15 points and four assists per game, Page earned the MOP award after having one of the most prolific seasons in program history. The only rookie in school history to reach 450 points and 100 assists in a season, Page led the team in scoring, assists, free throws made and three-point percentage, while also sitting as the top rebounding guard on the team. Her 37.6 minutes played per game ranked No. 2 on the single season charts, while ranking No. 14 nationally and No. 2 among NCAA Division I freshmen. Page was just the second Lady Lion to earn unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman team honors and just the third rookie ever named first or second team all-conference after garnering Second Team All-Big Ten laurels this season.
Collegiate Pride Defensive Player of the Year
Brianna Banks | Sr. | Newnan, Ga.
In her only season on the court, Banks was leaned on heavily to lead the Lady Lions and under head coach Coquese Washington that charge starts on defense. Banks led the team in steals with 48 swipes, setting a new career-high in the process. She routinely drew the assignment of defending the opposition's top scorer and, more often than not, held that player under her scoring average. She logged seven games with three-or-more steals this season and had 15 multi-steal efforts. She also led the team in steals on six occasions and in blocked shots seven times.
Most Improved Player Award & Academic Achievement Award
Peyton Whitted | Jr. | Suwanee, Ga.
Proof that hard works pays off, Whitted used her summer at home to work hard on her game and ended 2015-16 as one of the most improved players in the Big Ten. She more than doubled her scoring and rebounding number from her first two seasons and set career-highs in every statistical category. Her 8.3 rebounds led the team, while her 9.3 points were fifth on the squad. She grabbed 256 rebounds on the season -- a total that sits 21st in single season history -- and her 11 double-figure rebound games helped her record her first seven career double-doubles during the season. The junior also owned the highest GPA of the student-athletes that are at least a sophomore.
Tom Caldwell "Unsung Hero" Award
Leah Knizner | Fr. | Greensburg, Pa.
After joining the program as a walk on in October, Knizner's role changed as the season progressed. After joining the team in October, the freshman from Greensburg, Pa. saw her playing time increase after a pair of in-season injuries. She logged minutes in 19 games during the season, connecting on 3-of-7 shots from the field - all three pointers -- and grabbed six rebounds.
Jeannette Goss Courage/Leadership Award
Kaliyah Mitchell | Jr. | Stone Mountain, Ga.
Proving that leadership comes in all different forms, Mitchell was both a vocal and by-example leader for the Lady Lions in 2015-16. Challenged by her head coach to emerge as a leader during her junior season, Mitchell played through many bumps and bruises, but was one of the most consistent producers throughout the season. Mitchell improved her game on the court, shooting a career-best .426 from the field and scoring 9.5 points per game. She currently ranks No. 31st all-time with 509 career rebounds and her .768 free throw percentage sits No. 20 in the Lady Lion record books.
Robin Lombard "Spirit" Award
Sarah McMurtry | Fr. | Pittsburgh, Pa.
McMurtry is carrying on a long family tradition, while also living out her dream of wearing the blue and white, as her father did from 1982-85 as a member of the Penn State baseball team. McMurtry joined the squad as a walk on in 2015-16 and saw action in eight contests, however, her presence on the court was always felt due to her enthusiasm and engaged attitude while on the bench.
Ruth Ingram Fan of the Year Award
A long-time member of the Lady Lion Cager Club, Lingenfelter supports organization in many different ways. Through promotion of game attendance and the Lady Lion student-athletes, she also helps with selling 50/50 raffle tickets and various other tasks on a regular basis.
Kent Petersen Student Fan of the Year Award
Stover attends Lady Lion games as her schedule permits and is also an intern in women's basketball offices. She assumes tasks over and above what she is required to do -- all to support the student-athletes and program. Stover has been part of THON and is a member of Mission Mexico.
Hank Gambocurta Service Award
Diercks is the backbone of the Lady Lion Cager Club, as longtime member and past president of the organization. He initiated the 50/50 program and ensures the compliance of the raffle each year. He is charged with merchandise purchases, inventory, storage, sales and transportation, along with helping orchestrate away game bus trips. His support of the Lady Lion basketball program makes him a great ambassador for the Cager Club, the basketball program and the community.