Schuylkill Haven, Pa. - The Nittany Lions have made the PSUAC post-season but back-pedal into the playoffs following their third straight loss, a 78-59 defeat at Penn State Schuylkill on Thursday night. Playing without senior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) for the fifth straight contest, Hazleton struggled to produce the consistent offense needed to come out victorious, shooting just 32.8 percent from the field compared to a 46 percent shooting night from the home squad.
Schuylkill got a major head start in Thursday night's regular season finale, jumping out to a 16 point advantage in the first 10 minutes of the game. Held to just six points in over that same stretch, Hazleton got going shortly after the midway point of the first half, getting four triples from the outside shooters, including a pair from freshman Paul Feisel (Slocum, Pa.) who scored 14 in the first period. But even with the offense clicking, the Lions struggled to contain Schuylkill's Wilvens Fluerizard who sank 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc and hit on 7-of-8 in total from the field in the first half, as the home team carried a 37-24 cushion into the break.
Hazleton came out firing in the second half and cut into the Schuylkill lead midway through the action. Junior Aarron Kellmer (Hazle Township, Pa.) scored eight points for the Lions over a 1:30 minute stretch in the half to help trim the deficit to just 5 points with 14 minutes to play but Schuylkill's Fluerizard was hard to stop on Thursday night and closed the half on a tear with 18 second half points to his credit. Schuylkill went on to lead by as many as 22 points late in the game before closing out the Lions by a 19 point margin.
Fluerizard ended the night with a game-high 37 points contributed towards the Schuylkill win, adding six rebounds and six assists respectively. For Hazleton, solid numbers for Feisel who led the squad with a season-high 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting with Kellmer totaling 11 points and six rebounds but the Lions will need to find some additional help offensively as the post-season looms on the horizon.
Next up: With the loss, Hazleton falls to the number five seed in the PSUAC Eastern Division and in doing so, will have to travel for round one of the PSUAC playoffs. Their opponent, a familiar foe. Hazleton will head back to Penn State Schuylkill on Saturday, February 19 for a 1:00 p.m. tip-off, looking to flip the script from Thursday night and extend the season.