Hazleton, Pa. - A 53 point spurt in the second half propelled Hazleton past York for a miraculous come from behind win on Monday night in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium. Hazleton trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half until a trio of Hazleton players erupted to rally the squad. Junior Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) along with sophomores Aaron Kellmer (Hazleton, Pa.) and Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) combined for 81 percent of the Lion offense in the closing period to produce the epic 76-72 comeback victory.
Definitely a tale of two halves on Monday night as Hazleton struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half. The Lions suffered a five minute scoring drought midway through the period and tallied just four points from 13:00 minute mark until less than five minutes remaining in the opening period. York went on to build a substantial lead, adding 17 points over that same stretch, going up by as many as 19 in the half.
Trailing by 17 at the break, Hazleton entered the second half shooting just 24.3 percent from the field although that would soon become a thing of the past. Hazleton broke the lid on the rim for nine quick points but York was relentless around the basket and swiftly halted the run. Though each squad would trade baskets over the next several minutes, Hazleton would make headway from beyond the arc to cut the deficit two within ten points. A put-back slam by Mohammed energized the crowd with 10 minutes remaining and at that moment, Hazleton had all the momentum.
York would struggle for just four points over a six minute span and throughout that stretch Kellmer would take over the game. Kellmer would strike for 9 points as Hazleton stormed passed York for a 63-60 advantage, Hazleton's first lead since early in the first half. Both squads would trade buckets down the stretch and with 54 ticks left on the clock, a three point play by Anthony Bennett Jr. got York within one possession of reclaiming the lead, but Hazleton had come too far and played too well to surrender this game. With less than 10 seconds to play, Mohammed sealed up the win with a clutch steal in the paint and icing the game with free throws on the opposite end to send the Hazleton fans home with a 76-72 win.
After the sluggish first half, the Lions shot 63 percent from the field in the final period. Kellmer scored 16 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, draining 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Hopkins added 17 points and seven rebounds while Mohammed registered 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals in the win.
Next up: Talk about starting the week off on a positive note. The Lions continue their chase for a post-season berth on Wednesday with a visit to Penn State Schuylkill. Tip-off set for 8:00 p.m. in Schuylkill Haven, Pa.