Lions drop two games on western road swing

Aiden Wiktor defends on the perimeter.
Aiden Wiktor defends on the perimeter.

Hazleton, Pa. - Back on the court for their first action of the new year, Hazleton dropped two games over the weekend against PSUAC western division opponents, falling at Penn State Beaver on Friday night by the score of 39-60, followed by a 43-72 defeat at Penn State Fayette on Saturday. Perhaps rusty after over four weeks removed from their last date of competition, the Lions offense struggled mightily in their return to play. Hazleton shot just over 35 percent from the field in the loss to Beaver with 23 turnovers while shooting under 30 percent from the floor on Saturday with 24 turnovers credited to the offense. Tough stats to overcome but the Lions will look to improve their play as they head into the final stretch of conference play against the more familiar PSUAC for the remainder of the season. 

Friday, January 13 - Penn State Hazleton 39, Penn State Beaver 60 - Final

It was a challenge for both squads to score points in the first half but Hazleton was forced into two major scoring droughts in the first half of Friday's game at Penn State Beaver. After leading 3-2, three minutes into the game, Hazleton scored just one field goal over the next 13:30 of action. The Lions rallied late in the half but the damage had already manifested itself to the tune of a 14 point halftime deficit. Hazleton needed a major push to overcome the poor first half and although they kept pace with Beaver in the final 20 minutes, 14 second half turnovers prevented the Lions from making a late game push. Overall, Hazleton matched Beaver in shooting and converted seven triples compared to just two for the home squad, but Beaver cashed in 24 points off Nittany Lion turnovers and 20 second chance points to command a 21 point advantage in this one.

Sophomore Jahdon Jerome (Cambria Heights, Ny.) led Hazleton with 14 points on the night, scoring all of his points in the second half. Jerome went 5-for-10 in the final 20 minutes with four triples but it wasn't enough to threaten Beaver's double-figure lead in the second half. Sophomore Donovan Cumberbatch (Springfield Gardens, Ny.) also topped double-figures in the scoring column, going 5-for-11 on the night for 11 total points.

Saturday, January 14 - Penn State Hazleton 43, Penn State Fayette 72 - Final

Hazleton's first half woes continued into Saturday's contest as the Lions started off the game 0-for-5 with five turnovers before sophomore Aiden Wiktor got the Lions on the board with a pair of free throws five minutes into the game. Despite the slow start, Hazleton battled back to trail Fayette 11-13 midway through the first period but Fayette proceeded to go on a 13-0 run over the next six minutes of play. Jahdon Jerome stopped the offensive skid with a lay up at the 4:30 mark but Fayette poured in five field goals in the final four minutes to lead Hazleton 36-13 at the half. Facing another uphill climb, Hazleton responded with a much better performance in the second half, but the Lions were unable to lock down the Fayette squad who controlled the paint by out-rebounding the Lions 44-23 in the game with 44 points in the paint. Hazleton traded baskets with Fayette for the bulk of the second half, leading to the 72-43 finish.

Jahdon Jerome led Hazleton once again with 14 points to his credit, while freshman Chase Fenstermaker (Allentown, Pa.) chipping in with 12 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting to round out Hazleton's top performers on Saturday. 

Next up: A tough start to the second half but the Lions will look to rebound against the PSUAC eastern division for the remainder of the schedule. Hazleton remains on the road for the next contest as the head to Penn State Brandywine on Wednesday, January 18 for an 8:00 p.m. division rivalry.