York, Pa. - Sophomore McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) scored 25 second half points to drive the Lady Lions to a 96-61 victory over Penn State Beaver in the semi-final round of the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs on Saturday night at the Penn State York campus. Hazleton led by just one point at halftime but exploded offensively in the second half for 63 points. The Lady Lions made good on 25 of 32 free throw attempts in the second half and combined to shoot nearly 57 percent from the field in the closing two periods. Beaver would connect for just nine of 39 shot attempts in the second half resulting in the runaway victory for the Lady Lions.
Mason Depetro led Beaver with a 15 point, six rebound and four assist effort. Cassandra Flowers added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Mia Mattes ended the night with 10 points on four of nine shooting.
Prutsman was clutch for Hazleton all evening, hitting nine of 16 shot attempts, including a pair of long range makes while making good on 14 of 16 tries from the charity stripe. The sophomore added six rebounds, four assists and three steals and her 34 total points on the night were a season high.
Equally impressive was sophomore Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) who went for 22 points. Nalls hit 10 of 15 attempts from the free throw line and totaled seven rebounds and three assists in the win. Senior Stephanie Guevara (New Brunswick, Nj.) rounded out the top efforts for Hazleton, notching a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while registering team highs with six assists and four steals.
After a triple from Mia Mattes drew first blood for Beaver, Hazleton quickly took command with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes of play. The Lady Lions would hold Beaver to just two points over an eight minute stretch in the first quarter after the opening three pointer from Mattes. Hazleton built a commanding 18-5 lead over that period of time and withstood late flurry of Beaver makes in the final two minutes of play to carry a 23-11 lead into the second quarter.
Hazleton's double-digit cushion would swiftly evaporate as Beaver heated up in the second frame. Beaver shot over 47 percent in the quarter and by the five minute mark, cut the deficit to just six points at 25-19 Hazleton. After a pair of buckets from Haley Nalls grew the Lady Lion lead back to 10 points, Hazleton would cool off once more from the field, garnering just two field goals in the final four minutes of action. Beaver would take full advantage of the Lion's cold streak, tying the game with just 20 seconds to play after two consecutive jumpers from Cassandra Flowers. But Prutsman would race down the floor to convert a field goal before time expired, giving Hazleton the slim edge at 33-31 at the midway point.
Hazleton would gather themselves at the break and come out firing in the opening moments of the third quarter. Baskets from Nalls, sophomore Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, Ny.) and Guevara would start the second half push and Nalls would cap an 8-0 run with a pair of free throws after 2:30 of action. Both squads would trade scores over the next minute, but Hazleton would gain a slight edge thanks to long range makes from Laster and junior Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj,) that gave the Lions a 13 point cushion.
Midway through the quarter, Beaver would find themselves in foul trouble. Trouble that would send Hazleton to the charity stripe for 16 attempts in the final five minutes of the period. Hazleton would take full advantage at the line, sinking all but three shots to slowly grow their lead to 17 points by the quarter's tail end. With 30 seconds to go, Prutsman would fire from downtown, sinking her second triple of the night to give the Lady Lions a 67-47 advantage heading into the final act.
Pressed for scores, Beaver would come up empty after nearly three minutes of play to start off the final quarter. Hazleton would add to their lead over that stretch with Prutsman and Nalls combining for 10 points and giving Hazleton a comfortable advantage. The Lady Lions would finish the period shooting nine for 14 in the quarter and connect on 10 of 14 free throws to cruise to the finish line and a 35 point margin of victory.
Hazleton's impressive victory Saturday night leaves them one step closer to their ultimately goal, the coveted PSUAC championship trophy. The Lady Lions will look to save their best game for last when they take on Penn State Brandywine in the title game on Sunday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m. on the Penn State York campus. Brandywine earns their spot in the championship game after knocking off Lehigh Valley who was undefeated in the regular season. Stay tuned to psuhazletonsports.com and follow us @PSUHNAthletics on Twitter for live video of Sunday's title game.