Bethlehem, Pa. - Freshman Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) scored a career high 26 points, including a pair of game-winning free throws as Penn State Hazleton (16-2, 9-0 PSUAC) won in thrilling fashion Saturday evening over the second ranked team in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, Penn State Lehigh Valley (10-5, 7-2 PSUAC). Lehigh Valley stole the lead late in the game, shocking Hazleton who held serve for more than three quarters. Sophomore Jaqclyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Pa.) nailed a jumper with 17 seconds to play, cutting the lead to one and the Lady Lions defense forced a turnover to regain possession. With three seconds to play, Nalls penetrated the Lehigh defense and earned a trip to free throw line where she connected to give Hazleton the 84-83 victory and remain unbeaten in the PSUAC.
The Lady Lions came out firing on all cylinders, grabbing an early lead at the start of play keeping pace with the outside attack of Lehigh Valley. Hannah Bankes of Lehigh Valley poured in five shots from long distance in the first half, but each time Lehigh Valley closed in, Hazleton responded. With sophomore Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison facing early foul trouble, Haley Nalls sparked the Lions offense with 17 first half points, draining three of five shots from beyond the arc. A late quarter run by the Lady Lions gave them the 49-41 lead at the break. Both teams proved their offensive capability, with Hazleton 47.5 percent from the field while Lehigh Valley shot 46.7 percent from the floor.
The Lady Lions cooled off in the second half, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field and as the team fouls added up in the third period Lehigh Valley began to close the gap. Hazleton's prowess on the glass kept them in front until Hannah Bankes nailed her seventh triple of the game, giving Lehigh its first lead of the night.
Lehigh Valley sliced the Lions zone defense for 42 second half points, forcing turnovers and working their way to charity stripe. After a series of lead changes, the Lady Lions found themselves trailing by four points with 1:16 to play but momentum was about to change. After a Nalls free throw cut the lead to three, Hazleton turned over the home team and Siva-Harrison drove the paint for a pull-up jumper that shrank the lead to one. Stout defense from freshman McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) forced yet another Lehigh Valley miscue with 13 seconds remaining to give the Lions one final shot at victory, and Nalls came through in clutch fashion, capping Hazleton's wildest victory of the season.
Hannah Bankes scorched the net, sinking seven triples for Lehigh Valley, totaling 23 points in what was a brilliant shooting performance. Andrea Watkins earned 11 of her team high 25 points at the charity stripe, shooting 7-15 from the field. Ashley Gordon chipped in a double-double, netting 12 points, 12 rebounds and six steals, while Nikita Brady added 12 points to round out the top scorers for Lehigh Valley.
Nalls' 27 points was a career best and team high for the Lady Lions. Siva-Harrison also topped the charts with a season high 20 points four buckets coming from beyond the arc and six rebounds.Senior Alexis Daly (New Albany, Pa.) struggled from the field but had a monster game on the boards, securing six offensive rebounds and 16 total for the game.
The Lady Lions return to the friendly confines of the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium for the final five home games of the regular season. Hazleton next takes the court on February third when Penn State Worthington Scranton visits Hazleton as conference play continues.