Mont Alto, Pa. - Sophomores Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, Ny.) and Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's road contest in the Penn State University Athletic Conference to help the Lady Lions (11-2, 5-1 PSUAC) vault past Penn State Mont Alto (8-7, 2-4 PSUAC) by the final score of 75-56. Both squads were engaged in a tight first half until the Lady Lions began to make headway in the third quarter. Nursing a seven point lead at the end of three periods, the duo of Laster and Nalls connected on eight of 10 field goals, including three for three behind the arc as Hazleton pulled away in the final act for their sixth straight win.
Abigail Herring led all Mont Alto scorers with 14 points on the evening, but foul trouble shortened freshman guard's evening. Amber Siegfried produced a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while teammates Karley Coleman and Charity Miller each chipped in double figure efforts with 10 points each.
Hazleton was led by Laster who topped all scorers in the game with 19. The sophomore scored just six points in the first half but exploded with 10 fourth quarter points as the Lady Lions grew a comfortable lead. Laster shot just over 38 percent from the floor, but hit on four of five attempts from long range while adding seven rebounds and four assists to earn player of the game honors.
Collectively five Lady Lions reached double figures on Tuesday, shooting 41.3 percent from the field while out-rebounding the home team 50-34. Notable performances included 14 points and seven assists from sophomore McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) and a double-double from senior Stephanie Guevara (New Brunswick, Nj.) who notched 10 points while nabbing 12 rebounds and six steals.
PSUAC player of the week, Haley Nalls tallied nine points in the fourth quarter to total 14 for the night, while freshman Mekenzie Wolfe (Grove City, Pa.) came through with 10 points and seven boards in reserve. Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj.) was quiet on the offensive end but tied Guevara and Siegfried with a game high 12 boards.
Mont Alto jumped out to an early four point cushion until Laster's triple gave Hazleton its first lead of the night midway through the first quarter. That lead would be short lived as the home team quickly jumped back on top and left the Lions trailing 17-14 at the first intermission.
Hazleton stepped on the gas as the second quarter began earning four easy buckets off turnovers to quickly turn the tides in their favor for a 22-17 advantage. A pair of Nalls free throws staved off a triple from Mont Alto but a three minute scoring drought for Hazleton evened the match midway through the quarter. The Lady Lions would retake the lead as Mont Alto went cold for nearly four minutes as the half drew near but a 4-0 run for the home squad squared the match at 30-30 at the horn.
The Lady Lions picked up their defensive effort in the third frame, holding Mont Alto scoreless for nearly six minutes to start the period. Over that stretch Hazleton built a seven point buffer, maintaining that lead into the final minute of play until a three pointer from Herring made the score 45-41 with just 16 seconds to play. Fortunately for the Lions, McKenzie Prutsman quickly advanced the ball, dishing to Laster who found paydirt from beyond the arc to erase the damage, giving Hazleton a 48-41 lead and momentum heading into the fourth period.
Laster's three propeled the sophomore and Hazleton to their best quarter of the night. Hazleton outscored Mont Alto 13-6 to start the period and never looked back. The home team at one point cut the lead to 11 midway through the quarter but never got back within single digits. The Lady Lions shot over 73 percent from the field to outscore Mont Alto 27-15 in the final act, putting a bow on an outstanding second half performance and earning their fifth conference win in the process.
Hazleton is back in action on the weekend as they look to continue their roll in the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference. The Lady Lions head to Penn State Schuylkill on Friday, January 20 for a 6:00 p.m. matchup.