Hazleton, Pa. - The home stretch of the regular season kicked off with a weekend slate of road games for the Nittany Lions, squaring off with Penn State Beaver and Fayette. Unfortunately the Lions would be met with a pair of red hot shooting teams peaking at the right moment. Hazleton would fall in both games, dropping Friday night's contest with Beaver by the score of 82-65 and falling victim to a late flurry by Fayette on Saturday, 81-77.
Friday, February 8: Penn State Hazleton 65, Penn State Beaver 82 - Final
Monaca, Pa. - The Nittany Lions ran into a buzzsaw on Friday night and despite holding their own for much of the game, the Lions failed to keep pace with the sharp shooting squad from Penn State Beaver. Hazleton got a boost from freshman Scott Shamany (Hazleton, Pa.) in the first half of Friday night's game, scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and keeping the Lions within three points of Beaver at the midway point. Trailing, 37-40, Hazleton would get within one point of the home team following a triple by junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) but would get no closer as Beaver would close out the game on a 16-4 run. Beaver shot a remarkable 61.5 percent from the field in the second half including 57.1 percent from beyond the arc to surge past Hazleton in the second half and pull off the double-figure win.
Three Nittany Lions topped double-figures on Friday including Shamany, Kwaitkowski and sophomore Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.). Shamany was limited in the second half, seeing just four minutes of action to finish the game with 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Kwaitkowski owned a team-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field with a pair of triples on the night while Mohammed totaled 12 points and five rebounds.
Saturday, February 9: Penn State Hazleton 77, Penn State Fayette 81 - Final
Uniontown, Pa. - Unlike Friday night's game, Hazleton would lead in this one for more than 16 minutes in the second half. Hazleton dominated the early portions of the final period behind a nine point effort by freshman Jordan Graham (Montgomery Village, Md.). Graham would score the first four points of the half and continue to help the Lions build separation, knocking in a triple with 11:38 to play to extend Hazleton's lead to eight points. Following a Fayette bucket, Andy Kwaitkowski would connect on back to back triples, pushing the Lions advantage to double figures, part of an 8-0 run capped by sophomore Brandon Mohammed.
Mohammed's lay in with 9:55 remaining gave Hazleton a 60-44 cushion but with plenty of time left, Fayette would begin to heat up. The home squad would strike for nine trifectas down the stretch to shock Hazleton and take their first lead since the first half. Seven of Fayette's nine makes from beyond the arc came off the red hot fingers of Tavian Mozie, who totaled 23 points in the half. With the Lions trailing 77-75 with less than 30 seconds to play, Mozie would put the nail in the coffin, draining his final triple to put the game out reach and finish the day with a game high 30 points.
It was a great effort from Hazleton but ultimately the Lions were outdone by the long distance attack of Fayette who knocked in 17 triples, accounting for 63 percent of their point total. Leading the way for Hazleton was Kwaitkowski who finished the day with six threes of his own and a team high 27 points. Brandon Mohammed added a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds while the spark from Graham netted 14 points for Hazleton.
Next up: It all comes down to the final week of the regular season and despite the pair of losses over the weekend, Hazleton remains in control of their playoff destiny. The Lions will look to secure one of the final remaining spots in the postseason festivities beginning with Monday's home contest with Penn State Brandywine, slated for 8:00 p.m. in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.