Hazleton, Pa. - Senior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) went for 31 points for the second straight contest, propelling Hazleton to victory in a wild finish over Penn State Schuylkill on Thursday night in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium. Four of the last five Hazleton contests have finished within three points or less but Thursday marked the first time over that stretch that Hazleton has come out on the winning end. Kwiatkowski scored the final seven points for Hazleton including six points in the final 30 seconds of the game, halting the Lions five game losing streak with an 83-80 victory over Schuylkill.
Thursday's game proved to be a true back and forth affair straight through to the finish. Both teams shot above 50 percent in the contest and while Schuylkill managed to dominate the interior on offense, Hazleton countered with a distinct advantage from the charity stripe and beyond the arc, the former of which paying dividends down the stretch. In the end there were 21 lead changes in the action-packed game, seven of which came in the final two minutes of the game.
Hazleton trailed 78-77 with less than a minute to play in regulation but Kwiatkowski and the Lions were determined to flip the script from recent finishes and coming off a timeout, freshman Aiden Wiktor (Danville, Pa.) found Kwiatkowski slashing to the basket for a go-ahead basket. Schuylkill quickly responded on the opposite end, getting a put-back field goal from Wilvens Fleurizard to go back on top 80-79 with 20 seconds remaining. Hazleton pushed the ball up court, getting the rock to their ace. Kwaitkowski dribbled past the elbow through traffic, firing a contested fade-away from the right side of the court, burying the jumper his ninth and most important field goal of the night. With just 13 seconds to play, Schuylkill pushed the ball up court, but an illegal screen on the ball turned the visitors over and forced Schuylkill to put the Lions on the free throw line. Kwiatkowski promptly sank the pair from the line and with seven ticks on the clock final attempt to tie the game came up short, giving Hazleton the much needed win.
There were plenty of great efforts on Thursday night. For Schuylkill, Fleurizard paced the field with 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Dashawn Dixon added 16 points and eight rebounds while Lamonttea Brown dished out a game-high 16 assists. Hazleton garnered three players in double-figures with junior Aaron Kellmer (Hazle Twp, Pa.) registering 14 points and seven rebounds while freshman Paul Feisel (Slocum, Pa.) totaled 17 points, 14 of which came in the first half. But none were better than Kwiatkowski on Thursday who topped 30 points for the second straight game. The senior surged for 21 second half points, finishing the game 9-of-13 from the field and 11-of-13 from the free throw line to match his season high.
Next up: With every squad in the PSUAC east jockeying for position, every game from here on out has the feel of a post-season contest. Hazleton will look to continue to build momentum in their next matchup on Tuesday, February 8 when the Lions travel to Penn State Brandywine for an 8:00 p.m. conference showdown.