Hazleton, Pa. - A gritty effort by the Hazleton Nittany Lions paid off with win over the Monarchs of King's College on Monday night by the score of 68-61. Hazleton excelled from field in this one, shooting nearly 50 percent from field, while limiting the Monarchs to just 21 total field goals and an 18.2 conversion rate from beyond the arc to lock in the victory.
Hazleton got off to a rocky start following two offensive fouls by senior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) and five turnovers by the Nittany Lions in the first five minutes of play. While Kwiatkowski remained handcuffed with foul trouble for much of the half, King's moved ahead by as many as 13 points in the period and looked to put the game away early following a 12-0 run over a three minute stretch of play midway into the action. But with five minutes remaining in the first, Hazleton got spark off the bench from sophomore Conner Soo (Lamar, Pa.) and freshman Jahdon Jerome (Brooklyn, Ny) and closed out the period on a pair of triples by freshman Paul Feisel (Slocum, Pa) that evened the game up at 28-28 by the midway point.
The lead would change hands six times in the first 10 minutes of the second half and that final swing proved pivotal in the Lion's success Monday night. Senior Daniel Gendimenico's (Hazleton, Pa.) work on the offensive glass earned an easy put back to give Hazleton a 45-44 advantage and freshman Donovan Cumberbatch (Brooklyn, Ny.) followed up with two successful drives to give Hazleton some breathing room for the first time all evening. Leading 49-44 with eight minutes to play, Hazleton began to pour in shots from beyond the arc. Feisel, Kwiatkowski, Cumberbatch and Jerome all found their stroke from long distance to increase Hazleton's cushion to 10 points with just over three minutes to play. King's picked up the intensity on defense in a last ditch effort down the stretch, but could not convert on the offensive side and despite their best efforts, never got within a possession of tying or taking the lead as Hazleton went on to win by a seven point margin.
King's matched up well with Hazleton in nearly every statistical category except the one that mattered most, shooting percentage. With 33 attempts from three point range, King's managed just six triples on the evening while Hazleton converted twice as many from long range including five triples from Feisel who scored 12 of his game high 21 points in the second half. Gendimenico added four points and a game high 10 rebounds in the contest and Hazleton got a combined 22 bench points from Jerome along with freshman Aiden Wiktor (Danville, Pa.) and Nick Ruggeri (Mountain Top, Pa.) to help lock up the win.
Next up: Hazleton continues non-conference play on Tuesday night with trip to Bethlehem, Pa. to take on the Spartans of Northampton Community College at 7:00 p.m.