Wilkes-Barre, Pa. - Hazleton entered it's final non-conference contest of the season on Monday night riding a nine game win streak, looking to make it double-digits on the road at Wilkes University. Those hopes were short-lived in the first half as the Lady Lions suffered their lowest scoring quarter of the season, a five point effort that left Hazleton trailing the Colonels by 16. But the Lady Lions roared back to life, battling their way to the free throw line for 41 attempts in the final three frames while pinning down Wilkes on the defensive side to force 24 turnovers by the local NCAA III opponent.
Hazleton held Wilkes to just 24 second half scores, overcoming a 20 point deficit to get within one point of the Colonels in the final minutes of play. But the Lady Lions, who'd made a living at the free throw line all night, came up short down the stretch while Wilkes converted four of four attempts in the final 64 seconds of action to hang on for a slim 70-64 victory over Hazleton.
The Colonels got contributions from 11 players Monday night, three of whom reached double figures. Gianna Roberts totaled 15 points, nine rebounds in reserve work to go along with 13 points from Asdone Hooper who went two for two from long range off the bench. Haley Mesaros added 10 points and 10 rebounds to round out the Colonels top efforts.
Senior Stephanie Guevara (New Brunswick, Nj.) made good at the stripe on 15 of 19 tries, totaling a season high 22 points. Guevara made her presence felt all over the court, notching 15 rebounds, five assists and six steals to lead Hazleton statistically.
Junior Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj.) added 11 points, seven boards and three blocks while sophomore Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, Ny.) chipped in 10 points. Sophomore Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) came up just shy of double-figures with nine points on the night, but secured 11 rebounds to aid the Lady Lions comeback efforts.
A slew of errandt passes led to a slow start for the Lady Lions as Wilkes led off the game with a 12-2 run through half of the first period. A pair of Siva-Harrison free throws and a jumper from Berger was all the Lady Lions could muster against the inside out attack of the colonels. Prutsman would a point from the stripe, but Wilkes with their depth, kept the Lady Lions defense off balance to pull ahead for a 21-5 advantage after the first period.
Hazleton picked up the pace in the second quarter, working their way to the free throw line early and forcing turnovers on the defensive end. Once the ice was broken, Hazleton reeled off 12 straight points capped by a pair of sophomore McKenzie Prutsman(Jasper, Ny) lay ups on the fastbreak to trail Wilkes by just seven points with 6:11 left in the half. But back to back triples from Wilkes' Asdone Hooper put the momentum back on the side of the home team and despite a 24 point quarter from the Lady Lions, Hazleton surrendered 25 to the Colonels, entering the break trailing 46-29.
The Lady Lions stepped up defensively in the third frame limiting Wilkes to just five field goals in the quarter. Throughout the period Hazleton routinely worked its way to the free throw line connecting on seven of 10 tries to help cut into the Colonel advantage. Trailing 51-38 with just under four minutes gone by in the third, Prustman broke free in transition, sparking an 8-0 run by Hazleton to get within five points. Guevara capped the run with a pair of free throws but Hazleton would tack on just three points in the final three minutes as Wilkes expanded their advantage back to double figures.
Hazleton contained Wilkes to just one field goal in 6:30 of the fourth quarter. Over that stretch the Lady Lions slowly chipped away at an 11 point deficit thanks to buckets from Siva-Harrison and Nalls, followed by perfect free throw efforts from Laster and Guevara. With just under 2:30 to play, Laster again worked her way to the stripe, sinking a pair to get Hazleton within one point at 64-63 in favor of Wilkes, but a Gianna Roberts offensive board turned into an good make on the put back, pushing the lead back to three.
Guevara retaliated with a lay up on the opposite and had a chance to tie with a bonus free throw attemtp, but the ball rattled out and fell to the home team. In a hotly contested final minute of action, both teams would be tested at the stripe, but the Lions would sink just one of three in the final minute, while Wilkes sunk all four of its attempts to escape the game with a four point cushion over Hazleton.
No rest for the Lady Lions who head back to Penn State University Athletic Conference play on Tuesday. Hazleton head back out on the road to face Penn State Worthington Scranton at 6:00 p.m. before returning to the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium for a weekend homestand.