Hazleton Falls to Lehigh Valley, Playoff Hopes Dim

Hazleton's Mekenzie Wolfe puts up a shot surrounded by defenders.
Hazleton's Mekenzie Wolfe puts up a shot surrounded by defenders.

Penn State Hazleton matched each other with three players apiece hitting for double figures in their game last night in Lehigh University's Stabler Arena.  The problem for Hazleton was that the local Lady Lions cound't match the output of the host team and they dropped the 12 point decision to Lehigh Valley 94-82. WIth the loss sees their PSUAC playoff hopes dim as their record drops to 8-10 overall and their conference record fall to 5-6. 

Hazletons' Kendra Pfeil had the hot hand for the second straight game dropping 28 points followed by her front court partner Mckenzie Prutsman's 23 points and 10 assists while Mekenzie Wolfe added 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. However they could not match the output of Lehigh Valley's nigh three of Andrea Watkins (32 points), Hannah Bankes (29 points) and Ebony Sanders (17 points and 19 rebounds).  Gia Erie also helped the cause hauling in 15 boards of her own for Lehigh Valley. The teams bookended outscoring each other in the first and fourth quarters, but the middle quarters are what doomed Hazleton as Lehigh Valley outscored them for the difference. 

Lehigh Valley got on the board quickly as Watkins took the tip off feed right to the hoop to score three seconds into the game. Wolfe put Hazleton on the board when she answered with a layup of her own at the 8:45 mark.  Lehigh Valley pused out to a 10 point lead over the next 4 minutes, but Hazleton would not back down.  A Pfeil trey at the 2:51 mark pulled Hazleton within two and seconds later a Wolfe put-back tied the game at 14 apiece.  However, only a Sadie Beaver bucket from beyond the arc would be the only points Hazleton would muster the rest of the quarter.

Lehigh Valley then controlled the tempo to open up the second quarter. A tough interior defense by Hazleton forced Lehigh Valley to use their outside offense and the capitalized on the option. Extending the defense allowed Lehigh Valley to conriol its offensive boards and when they weren't hitting outside shots, they were getting inside position for easy put-backs.  By the 7:01 mark in the quarter, they pushed their lead back up to 13 points and Hazleton quickly called a time out to slow the Lehigh Valley momentum.  Sam Varela hit a fould shot and Shelby Berger made a tip-in to get Hazleton back into the fray.  The teams traded baskets and turnovers the rest of the way and the half ended with Lehigh Valley on top of Hazleton, 45-36.

The second half started as the first ended, with both teams trading baskets for two minutes.  Then, at the 8:53 mark, Hazleton made a run with two Wolfe free throws and a three point bomb by Sam Varela. A Pfeil layup, a trey by Prutsman followed up with layup and Hazleton had it first lead of the night, 50-49 at the 6:39 mark of the quarter. Like prizefighters trading blows he lead seesawed back and forth again until Lehigh Valley retook the lead pushing it to 15 points by the end of the third quarter.

Pfeil started the fourth quarter comeback by hitting a three-point shot 10 seconds into the frame and then hit another 40 seconds later. After a White tip-in at 8:41 Varela hit a fieldgoal to cut the lead to nine. Picking up the defense, Hazleton forced Lehigh Valley to go cold; add a Prutsman layup and Pfeil fieldgoal and Hazleton cut into the lead even further to only five points making the score 74-69 with 4:41 left in the game. Lehigh Valley would then go on a 16 point run over the next two minutes of the game while limiting Hazleton to four points in that time.  Pfeil would not let Hazleton qo quietly and hit for two three-pointers in 20 seconds and then a third at the :51 mark to cut the lead to 10 points. A Wolfe free throw would close out all scoring with the final score Lehigh Valley 94 and Hazleton 82.

The stat sheet shows the teams pretty evenly matched with Lehigh Valley shooting 44% and Hazleton hitting 36%. The tell tale numbers on the night come from the rebound column where Lehigh Valley scored the same number of points in the paint - 62, as it had total rebounds - 62, while Hazleton could only muster 34 total rebounds and hit on 16 points from the paint. In addition to the in-close points, Lehigh Valley also outscored Hazleton in Second Chance Points, 26-12. Turnovers were pretty with Hazleton having the fewer, 22-23, but Lehigh Valley made the most of the opportunities scoring 30 points while Hazleton could only cash in for 11.

Hazleton returns to play Tuesday night at the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium in a PSUAC game against Penn State Wilkes-Barre with tip off scheduled for 6 PM.  The Local Lady Lions won the last meeting between the two teams in a nailbiter, 64-62 on January 23rd at Wilkes-Barre.