Penn State Hazleton had the perfect game plan for Tuesday nights' game against Penn State Wilkes-Barre - Spread the floor, run the offense, pound the ball inside inside on the seal or hit the open man on the swing, run the fast break and take the ball right to the hoop - on the other end of the court, don't give Wilkes-Barre a second shot, make them work for a shot, and content the shot. For 38 minutes of the game, they ran that game plan to perfection. In the end, in a very dramatic ending, the effort and game plan fell just oh-so-short and Wilkes-Barre escaped with a 68-67 win at the Dr. Thomas M. Cacesse Gymnasium Tuesday night.
Jonathan Fogarty led all scorers for Hazleton with 18 points followed by Brandon Mohammed pouring in 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds and Robbie Hopkins adding another 12 points. Wilkes-Barre was led by outside threat Tomir Gibbs' 15 points, Levaugn Soules' 13 points and Jordan Williams' 10 points. The stat book is a mirror image of the scoreboard showing just how close the game was. Hazleton shot 44% (25-58) to Wilkes-Barre's 43% (25-57) - same fieldgoal points on only one less shot), three-point shooting was even at 35% (7-20) and rebounds were as close with Hazleton holding the slight edge 35-34. One of the big factors of the night was the very deep bench for Wilkes-Barre as they suited up almost 20 players, and those players contributed in a big way scoring 30 points, to Hazleton's 4.
From the opening tip off to the end of the game the atmosphere was electric. Brandon Mohammed got thigs going with a strong layup at the 18:46 mark, and not to be outdone Jordan Williams followed suit with a layup of his own. A Jonathan Fogarty layup and a Mohammed trey give Hazleton a lead that would last the entire half. Wilkes-Barre changed up their defense and collapsed down into the paint to shut down the inside game and challenged Hazleton's guards to hit the perimeter shots, and the Local Lions responded. The trio of Hopkins, Fogarty and Aaron Kellmer hit for eight points apiece to lead the charge for Hazleton while Wilkes-Barre point guard hit for 13 points, 9 of which came from beyond the arc. Hazleton pushed the scoring and at the 12:37 mark in the half held a 10 point lead, their biggest of the night. Wilkes-Barre chipped away and would narrow the gap to five points by the :55 second mark, but neither team could find the bottom of the net in the remaining time. Hazleton went into the locker room with the five point lead 36-31.
The opening of the second half would find both teams playing sloppy basketball. With turnovers and missed layups by both squads, the first points of the half came as a result of Nick Nowak hitting both shots from the charity stripe. Jordan Williams would start the scoring for Wilkes-Barre with a layup, followed by trey from Dawson-Johnson and Wilkes-Barre found themselves right back in the mix. The teams traded baskets back and forth maintaining the three point cushion Hazleton had built up through 11 minutes of play. At 7:54, Deandre Monroe hit the front end of a one and one to tie the score for the first time since the opening tip off at 53-53, but then missed the second however a lane violation put the ball back in his hands, and he hit the bucket to put Wilkes-Barre ahead for the first time since the opening tip off. Monroe would then steal the ball and was abruptly fouled and went back to the line where he hit another two buckets to push the Wilkes-Barre lead to three. From this point, the teams would trade baskets back and fourth for five minites until the 1:56 mark when Brandon Mohammed would go to the line to shoot two. Mohammed made both shots and Hazleton was back in the lead, 67-65. Wilkes-Barre would move the ball down the floor and set up the play and saw Levaugn Soules get the back door layup to tie the game again at 67 at 1:19. A turnover and a foul put Jordan Williams on the line at :18 seconds but he missed the second shot setting up the dramatic finish. Hazleton called a timeout to set up the play, inbounding and working the ball around the perimeter for the game winning shot. An untimely double-dribble call turned the ball over to Wilkes-Barre with three seconds left apparently sealing the win for Wilkes-Barre. However, on the inbounds, Hopkins stole the ball, took one dribble and launched a half-court hope that just missed the mark as the final horn sounded ending the game and Hazleton's upset bid. Final score was Wilkes-Barre 68 and Hazleton 67.
With the loss, Hazleton falls to 6-13 overall and 5-8 in the PSUAC. They continue their season on Friday night when they travel to Schuylkill Haven to take on Penn State Schuylkill with tip off schedued for 8 PM.