Men's Basketball starts 2023-24 season with pair of non-conference wins

Joey Lombardo lines up a three point shot from the wing.
Joey Lombardo lines up a three point shot from the wing.

Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions kicked off the new season with a bang last week, notching a pair of non-conference wins before falling in their third matchup of the week to begin the year with a 2-1 record. Hazleton topped Northampton Community College in the season opener and followed that performance with a win over Central Penn College. Hazleton looked for a clean sweep on the week but a poor second half left the Lions on the losing end to King's College to wrap up the first week of basketball. 

Thursday, November 2 - Penn State Hazleton 69, Northampton Community College 66 - Final

 The season opener was close all night as Hazleton looked to protect their home court in the first game of the season. The Lion's trailed by one point midway through the game but poured in 45 second half points including a combined 22 second half points from third year players Jerry Surrency (Vineland, Nj.) and Malachi Green (Atlantic City, Nj.). Hazleton led by as many as nine points in the second half until a late string of triples from Northampton closed the gap to as few as two points with just 30 seconds remaining. Hazleton connected on 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to close out Northampton and claim their first win of the year. 

Green led Hazleton in scoring on the night, totaling 17 points, shooting 80 percent from the field and knocking in 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. Surrency added 10 points in the win while third-year player Dante Harward (Danville, Pa.) chipped in a double-double, notching 14 points, 13 rebounds and four steals. 

Monday, November 6 - Penn State Hazleton 82, Central Penn College 76 - Final

For the second time in two games, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a tight battle on their home court. Despite a 15 point, 10 rebound first half effort from Dante Harward, the Lions found themselves tied at 37 heading into halftime. Hazleton got a welcome spark defensively in the second half, getting nine steals in the period including four swipes from first-year Shamel Gibson (Easton, Pa.) which led to 21 points off Central Penn turnovers for the game. Third-year player Nick Sambour (Williamstown, Nj.) scored six straight points for the Nittany Lions midway through the half on his way to 10 points in the period, while first-year player Axcel Kamanga (Bethlehem, Pa.) surged for nine points and seven rebounds in the second half to help the Lions pull ahead by double figures late in the game as Hazleton hung on to win, 82-76. 

Harward eclipsed all scorers for Hazleton with his second double-double in as many games with 20 points and 12 boards to his credit. Including Harward, five Nittany Lions reached double-digits in the scoring column with starters, Malachi Green toting 12 points on the night and third-year player Connor Rushing (Newtown, Pa.) earning 10 points and six rebounds. Kamanga ended the game with 11 points and nine rebounds while Sambour totaled 18 points and six rebounds in the win.

Wednesday, Nov. 8 - Penn State Hazleton 84, King's College 104 - Final

Hazleton looked like they were in great position to sweep the week in non-conference play as the Lions took an eight point advantage over the Monarchs midway through the first half of Wednesday night's game. King's went on to close out the half with three triples to close the gap to a two point deficit at the break and continued to heat up from beyond the arc in the second half. The Monarchs connected on 11-of-26 tries from beyond the arc in the final period to pull away from Hazleton with ten minutes remaining and never looked back in this one, topping the Lions by 20 points. 

Hazleton had four players in double-figures offensively but were out-rebounded 49-31 and allowed 18 triples to King's shooters. Harward notched 15 points in the loss with Surrency totaling 12 points respectively. Shamel Gibson added 11 points and four assists while Kamanga pitched in 10 points in the loss.