Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions lost four straight games coming into Thursday's road match at Penn State York, three of which were lost by a combined total of six points. Despite the streak, Hazleton's excellent play throughout the season had already secured the squad a playoff spot but the Lions were in much need of a win. Though it was not to be on Thursday, the Lions would bounce back in their final regular season game with a win over Penn State Scranton on Friday night amidst a celebration of Hazleton seniors Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.).
Thursday, February 14: Penn State Hazleton 49, Penn State York 80 - Final
York, Pa. - With the number two seed in the postseason still up for grabs, the Lions were all in heading into Thursday's game at York looking for a series sweep and a chance at a home playoff game. Hazleton hung with York for the first 15 minutes of action but as the half wound down, York began to pull away, opening up a double-figure lead by halftime. Hazleton overcame an 18 point deficit against York in the teams first meeting this season, but that was not to be on Thursday.
The Lions tallied just five points in the seven minutes of the second half, leading to a 22 point advantage for York. With the game well in hand, it seemed rest might be the best recipe for Hazleton as starters began to exit the game. York would go on to dominate the second half, out rebounding Hazleton 44-27 while shooting 47.6 percent from the field compared to just 34 percent for Lions who scored a season low 49 points.
In 25 minutes of action, senior Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa) topped all Hazleton scorers with 12 points, adding five rebounds and two swipes. Junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) totaled 10 points while sophomore Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) picked up eight points and five rebounds.
Friday, February 15: Penn State Hazleton 91, Penn State Scranton 71 - Final
Hazleton, Pa. - An emotional night all around on Friday as Hazleton bid farewell to seniors Nick Nowak and Jordan Singletary. Singletary, who's career was cut short due to injury made a final appearance on the court with an honorary start for the Lions and his final two points in uniform courtesy of a classy display of sportsmanship by the Scranton squad. Singletary exited the game to great admiration, wrapping up an extraordinary three year career. Though he missed the final four games of his junior year and his entire senior season, Singletary amassed 822 career points, 743 rebounds and 177 blocked shots over 62 games. Nearly unstoppable in the paint on both ends of the floor, Singletary averaged a double-double for his career and was the pre-eminent shot-blocker in the conference in each of his three campaigns.
When play resumed Hazleton roared out of the gate with six triples from four different Nittany Lions. By the 13 minute mark, Hazleton had built a 26-11 advantage but following the hot start, the Lions would come up empty from beyond the arc on their next 13 attempts. A 15-4 run by the visitors would get Scranton right back in contention and by the end the half, trailed the Lions by just four points.
The Lions put an emphasis on getting to the basket early and often in the second half and as the close range buckets began to drop, the outside shot returned as well. Hazleton opened the half on a 17-6 run and never looked back. Kwaitkowski would total 19 points in the period, connecting on five of Hazleton's seven triples in the second half. Coupled by solid efforts from Nowak, sophomore Aaron Kellmer (Hazleton, Pa.), freshman Scott Shamany (Hazleton, Pa.) and Brandon Mohammed, the Nittany Lions had all the offense they would need to top Scranton who shot just 31.7 percent in the second half.
With 53 points in the second half, Hazleton puts an end to the losing streak that plagued them over the past 10 days. With big numbers off the bench, Kwaitkowski led all scorers on the night with 27 points but he wasn't the only Nittany Lion with big numbers on the night. Nowak registered 18 points and eight rebounds on 8-of-18 shooting to help his team secure a win for the last time on his home court. Shamany totaled 11 points with a game high 15 rebounds while Kellmer added 11 points respectively. Rounding out the top performances on the night was Brandon Mohammed with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Next up: Hazleton's return to the win column couldn't come at a better time. With a Brandywine victory in New Kensington, the Lions sit in the number four seed in the eastern division earning the short trip to face Penn State Wilkes-Barre in round one of the PSUAC playoffs on Tuesday, February 19. Details to come in the come in the coming days.