Hazleton survives late surge at York

Scarlet Vargas drives the paint.
Scarlet Vargas drives the paint.

York, Pa. - The Lady Lions remain in the playoff hunt in a crowded Penn State University Athletic Conference eastern division following a 65-59 road victory at Penn State York on Saturday. Hazleton staved off a late comeback bid by York to improve to 7-9 in the conference while York fell to 8-8 and fourth place in the division standings. 

Hazleton got off to a great start, going up 12-2 in the first seven minutes of play. Although York would work their way back into the game late in the quarter, Hazleton remained out in front behind a solid shooting effort. That trend would continue for three quarters as Hazleton shot 50 percent from the field throughout the first 30 minutes of play compared to just 25 percent for the home squad, Penn State York. Throughout the first three quarters, Hazleton freshman Scarlet Vargas (Bronx, Ny.) and Katura McCorkle would combine to make 15-of-27 shot attempts as Hazleton maintained and extended their lead throughout the game.

Hazleton was especially dominant in the late stages of the third period after York had trimmed the Lady Lions advantage to just five points and five minutes to play in the period. The Lions closed the quarter on an 18-5 run that saw five different Hazleton players contributing on the offensive end including six points each from Vargas and McCorkle. The late Hazleton run extended the Lions advantage to 17 points entering the fourth period but York would try to flip the script in the last 10 minutes of the game. 

York would work their way to the charity stripe for six free throws in the first two minutes of the play in the fourth quarter, adding an early lay-up to to trim Hazleton's advantage to single digits before close range buckets by freshman RosaLydia Caputo (Howard Bearch, Ny.) and senior Mekenzie Wolfe (Grove City, Pa.) helped slow down the York attack and keep the Lions out in front by double-figures. Those buckets would prove crucial down the stretch as Hazleton hit a cold stretch from the field that nearly cost them the game. Fortunately for the Lady Lions, York would experience their own woes from the field, going without a field goal for nearly a six minute stretch midway through the period. Free throws would keep York in contention but ultimately, and 0-for-12 effort from beyond the arc would keep the home team from eclipsing Hazleton. With a four point cushion and less than a minute to play, Hazleton would seal up the win at the charity stripe with a pair of makes by Vargas as Hazleton escaped with the win by a six point margin. 

The Lady Lions went cold in the fourth but the solid performance in the first three periods add up to a win. Vargas would end the day as the game's leading scorer, tying a season-high with 25 points, adding eight rebounds and five assists in the win. Katura McCorkle notched 16 points and a team best 14 rebounds in the win, going 6-for-8 from the charity stripe to help the Lions stay in the hunt for a post-season berth. 

Next up: Two crucial games remain for the Lady Lions who find themselves just one game out in the eastern division standings. Hazleton will look to keep in the hunt on Tuesday when the Lady Lions host the current number three seed in the east, Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Tip-slated for 6:05 p.m. in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium on February 18, with television coverage provided by WYLN TV, Hazleton.