Hazleton fades late at Lehigh Valley

Cassandra Rodriguez dribbles up court on a fast break.
Cassandra Rodriguez dribbles up court on a fast break.

Bethlehem, Pa. - The Nittany Lions battled for over three quarters at Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night but offensive struggles came at the wrong time for Hazleton as Lehigh Valley pulled away late for their fourth conference win of the season by the final score of 82-62. Hazleton.

Limiting Lehigh Valley's offense proved difficult for the Nittany Lions in the first half and Hazleton was faced with an uphill climb after the home squad started the game on an 11-0 run. The Lions battled back behind a six point efforts from junior Justine Bernazeau (Trelissac, FR) and sophomore Emily Titus (Tamaqua, Pa.) who helped Hazleton trim the Lehigh Cushion to just four points before Lehigh closed the quarter on a four point run to lead 23-15 after one quarter of action. 

Self-inflicted wounds plagued Hazleton in the second quarter as Lehigh Valley used second chance opportunities and full-court pressure to expand their lead to as many as 18 points in the second frame. The Lions response was swift and with less than three minutes to play in the half, a triple by freshman Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) and a breakaway lay up from Bernazeau trimmed the deficit to just nine points but the Lehigh Valley squad could not be denied for long and back to back triples quickly extended the lead back to double digits. 

Hazleton trailed 48-35 at halftime but there was no backing down from the Lions in this one. Emily Titus continued to pace the field on the offensive end, notching six field goals in the period as Hazleton surged to win the third quarter. Titus was clutch from mid-range and added a pair of free throws in the period and capped the quarter with a jumper from the corner to get Hazleton to within seven of Lehigh Valley. But with ten minutes to play, Hazleton was unable to close the gap down the stretch. Following a lay up by freshman Rocky Curry that kept Hazleton within nine points of the home team, Lehigh Valley proceeded to shut down the Hazleton offense for the remainder of the game. Hazleton would tally just two points in the final six minutes of action, seeing Lehigh Valley finish the game on a 13-2 run and top the Lions by a comfortable 82-62 margin. 

A closer game than the score would indicate, Hazleton posted solid numbers from mid-range jumpers and from the free throw line but too many mistakes on the glass and in the turnover department, accompanied by a 2-for-17 effort from beyond the arc led to the loss on Tuesday. Emily Titus finished the game with a season high 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field, adding four rebounds and three assists in the losing effort. Other Nittany Lions in double-figures included freshman Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) with 13 points and six rebounds while Bernazeau added 10 points, six rebounds and five assists respectively. 

Next up: Hazleton continues PSUAC play on Friday night when the Lions welcome Penn State DuBois to the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium for a 5:00 p.m. conference match up.