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Makenna Marisa Nears End of Career as Lady Lion Star and Teammate

The numbers 0:06 glared in bright red above two backboards. In white, the number 92 stood next to a Penn State logo while the number 87 was adjacent to a Mississippi State logo. As the buzzer sounded in the Bryce Jordan Center, the face of Penn State women’s basketball walked off the court in her home arena for the final time.

Makenna Marisa finished with 22 points, four assists and three rebounds. She earned a standing ovation from the same university that cheered on her grandfather as he reached a Final Four bid with the 1954 Nittany Lions.

Marisa’s season wasn’t over, but Thursday’s victory for the Lady Lions over Mississippi State in the WBIT was the end to one of the best home stands in Marisa’s five-year tenure with the words “Lady Lions” emblazoned across the front of her jersey.

After 2,348 minutes on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center, Marisa stepped off to never again play Penn State basketball in the building.

Marisa was a force on the court right up until her final whistle. In her time with the Nittany Lions, Marisa has recorded 2,200 points, 521 assists, 596 rebounds and 180 steals, and she still has at least one more final whistle left in her career.

“I think I just want to be remembered as someone that gave it their all on the court,” Marisa said postgame Thursday night. “Someone who was like my grandpa was hard working, and hopefully, as a good teammate. Hopefully, you guys can see that I tried my best.”

Marisa will have another chance to show Penn State how she tried her best. The guard, alongside her teammates, will travel to Indianapolis for the semifinals of the WBIT on Monday against Villanova.

However, for all her on-court accomplishments, the first words about Marisa that came to mind for those she plays with aren’t about who she is as a player.

Her coach, Carolyn Kieger, praised her for sticking through an often ugly rebuild. Marisa was on the court when Penn State won just seven games in 2019. In 2024, as the Lady Lions have won 22 games and counting, Marisa is wearing the same jersey. The locker room around her has changed plenty, featuring a rotating circuit of assistant coaches and teammates, but Marisa hasn’t.

Marisa’s teammate, redshirt junior guard Leilani Kapinus, didn’t mention any points scored, shots blocked, or passes threaded when talking about her longtime teammate.

“Great teammate, even better person,” Kapinus said of Marisa. “One of the most selfless people I know. I mean, it doesn’t matter how many minutes she plays. She’s cheering us on, and when she’s out there, she’s doing whatever she can to help us win. She’s honestly just a great role model on and off the court.”

As her swansong came to a close, Marisa said she was trying to avoid thinking about the past. Penn State may yet have two games left in its season — two more chances for Marisa to don the blue and white jersey she’s worn for five seasons. Still, in between words, Marisa seemed to understand the weight of the moment passing her by.

“I was really trying not to think about it, trying not to get too emotional,” Marisa said. “But to go out my last game, play like that, play Penn State basketball with these amazing teammates of mine, it was just so special.”