Dallas, Pa. - The Nittany Lions battled a physical William Patterson team Friday night in the Misericordia University Thanksgiving holiday tournament and trailed by just three points at the break, but a five minute scoreless drought in the second half proved fateful for Hazleton. William Patterson met the task on the offensive glass in the final frame, out-rebounding the Lions 23-17, offering the Pioneers second chances opportunities that opened up a 12 point lead with 13:00 minutes to play. Hazleton would cut the lead to single digits in the waning minutes of the game but late gambles led to free throws for the Pioneers who advanced to the tomorrow's finals by the score of 75-63 over Hazleton.
Sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) led all scorers in Friday night's contest with 20 points for the Lions. Solano scored 15 in the second half to keep the Lions in contention, adding a team high four assists and two steals. Junior Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) added his third double-double of the season with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Pioneers got a spark off the bench from David Mofunanya who went for 18 points on 7-9 shooting from the field. Richy Espinal added 15 points, 13 rebounds and four steals while Zach Frich finished the game with 12 points to round out the top scorers for William Patterson.
Both teams got off to a slow start, but the offensive pace would quicken five minutes into the action. A pair of triples from sophomore Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) and junior Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) gave Hazleton its first lead of the game after six minutes of play but a 23-9 run by the Pioneers over the next nine minutes had them leading the Lions 31-21 with five minutes remaining. Facing full court pressure from the Pioneers, Hazleton exploited the stretched defense to attack the basket leading to a pair of lay-ins from Singletary and a close range bucket from DePaolis. Junior Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.) knocked in a triple and two free throws to end the half, cutting the Pioneer lead to 38-33 at the break.
Hazleton set the pace in the opening minutes of the period leading to a jumper by Solano that cut the Pioneer lead to just one point with 17:00 minutes remaining but Hazleton would cool off for the next five minutes of action. William Patterson took advantage of the Lion's scoring drought to expand their lead back to as many as 15 points. Both teams would trade scores at their ends as the period entered its final stages until and bucket and free throw from Solano got the lead back to single digits, but with just 1:28 to play, Hazleton was forced to gamble leading to an easy buckets and free throws and a win for the Pioneers by the final score of 75-63.
Hazleton returns to Misericordia University on Saturday afternoon where they'll face the loser of the tournaments' 8:00 p.m. matchup between the host team and Clarks Summit University. Tip off scheduled for tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.