Lehman, Pa. - The Nittany Lions looked to right the ship Tuesday night at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, battling their local Penn State University Athletic Conference for the second time in 2017. Hazleton overcame a 10 point deficit in the first half to Wilkes-Barre, shooting over 45 percent from the field to enter the break in a 34-34 tie, but a six minute scoring drought to start the second period proved fateful for Hazleton. Wilkes-Barre used the cold stretch by the Hazleton to drive up a 17 point cushion that the Nittany Lions could not overcome. The Lions were out-rebounded 29-11 in the period and unlike the first half, shot just 15.5 percent from the floor, thwarting any comeback hopes for Hazleton and resulting in a 76-48 defeat.
Colton Lewis led all players on the evening with a 26 point, 19 rebound effort for Wilkes-Barre. Lewis made good on 12 of 16 attempts in 36 minutes played.
Christopher Cantine added 10 points and six rebounds while DeAndre Monroe finished the night with 11 points and a team high five assists.
Freshman Ben Riegel (Doylestown, Pa) led Hazleton with a season high 13 point performance. Riegel notched five scores on eight attempts including three buckets from long range.
Junior Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) served up a double-double for the Lions with 10 points and 10 rebounds while senior Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.) joined Riegel and Kelly in double figures with 10 points in 25 minutes played
Wilkes-Barre came out hot, working their way to an early 14-4 advantage connecting on six of their first nine shot attempts. It took Hazleton three minutes to get on the board, but the Lions would heat up at the 15:29 mark. Hazleton would bounce back to take the lead over the next four and half minutes beginning with a pair of lay ups from Riegel and Kelly. Dwayne Richardson would tack on back to back three pointers to cap the 17-2 run that saw the Lions take a 21-16 advantage. Hazleton would continue to strike offensively but Wilkes-Barre would battle back. Both teams traded leads in the final ten minutes of action but niether would gain much traction down to the final minute. A Riegel lay up would give Hazleton a two point edge in the final 30 seconds of play but Colten Lewis would connect on a jumper with seven seconds to play, knotting the score at 34 heading into halftime.
After a strong team effort offensively for Hazleton in the first half, the Lions would go cold in the final period. The Lions would misfire on their first eight attempts in the half, allowing Wilkes-Barre to surge ahead. Wilkes-Barre would convert baskets on four Nittany Lion turnovers over that stretch en route to a 17 point cushion. Riegel would lead a comeback effort at the 12 minute mark, hitting a pair of triples as Hazleton clawed back to a 10 point deficit, but Hazleton would struggle to find points down the stretch. The Lions would suffer a six minute scoring drought in the final nine minutes of play while the home squad tacked on points to pull away for good.
Tuesday's loss leaves the Lions out of the playoff hunt with seven PSUAC teams currently with eight or more victories in the conference. Hazleton will have one final outing on Friday, February 10 at the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium where the Lions will face Penn State Schuylkill at 8:00 p.m.