Bethlethem, Pa. - Sophomore Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.) scored a season high 27 points off the bench as the Nittany Lions spoiled Penn State Lehigh Valley's (2-13, 2-8 PSUAC) bid for a Penn State University Athleic Conference victory in the high scoring shoot-out at Stabler Arena Saturday night. Hazleton (5-13, 3-8 PSUAC) scored the final eight points in regulation to force overtime and carried that momentum into extra time, earning an 87-80 victory and putting the brakes on a six game losing streak.
Hazleton dominated the final minutes of each half with major contributions from Brathwaite, junior Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.), freshman Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) and sophomore Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.), nearly all of who had season bests. Hazleton's floor grouping for the last three minutes of each period combined to outscore Lehigh Valley 20-2, providing fans with a thrilling finish.
Hazleton grabbed an early 15-8 advantage before a pair of Lehigh Valley buckets from long range by David Stevens and Brandon Holland sparked a 22-5 run to the lament of the Nittany Lions. Facing a 10 points deficit with just under six minutes to play in the opening period, Hazleton found it's shot from beyond the arc. DePaolis broke a 3:30 scoring drought with the Nittany Lion's first of five triples to end the period. Brathwaite connected twice from downtown, and Richardson capped the first half with a long range basket in the final seconds of play, cutting the Lehigh Valley advantage to just five points at the break.
An 8-0 run by the Lions to open the action in the second period put the Hazleton back on top for the first time since the 12 minute mark in the first half. Three consecutive lay-ins from Lehigh Valley's Deshawn Oyeniyi recaptured the lead for the home squad, but neither team could make any headway, with both teams trading leads over the next nine minutes of play. A Brandon Holland triple and Jordan Young jumper broke the stalemate action, giving Lehigh Valley an eight point lead with three minutes to play, their largest advantage since late in the first half.
Once again, Hazleton saved it's best play for the waning moments of the period. Following a 30 second timeout, the Lions came out firing. Brathwaite connected on his fifth three-pointer of the night to cut the lead to five. Then DePaolis went to work, owning the final 1:30 of play in regulation. The freshman capped a defensive stop with a rebound, then found his shot on offense, draining a three and slicing the lead to just two points. Once again DePaolis secured the key rebound after a Hazleton stop, then found Singletary open on the baseline who knocked down the jumper to complete the comeback and send the Lions into overtime.
After shocking the Lehigh Valley faithful in Stabler Arena, Hazleton grabbed its first lead since the 10 minute mark in the second half on Richardson's fourth triple of the game. A Singletary jumper and Brathwaite bunny pushed the Lion's advantage to five but Lehigh Valley refused to go quietly. Jordan Holland gave Lehigh Valley hope with a long triple, but with the clock winding down, the home team was forced to send Hazleton to the line, where the Lions made good, sinking five of six to seal the 87-80 victory.
Jordan Young led all scorers for Lehigh Valley, garnering 16 points on six of 18 shooting while fellow guard Brandon Holland hit five three's in the game for 15 total points adding six assists to his credit. Tyler Krchnavi and DeShawn Oyeniyi provided the prowess in the paint scoring 14 points each, combining for 16 rebounds.
Brathwaite swiped five steals in the game and connected on five of nine three point attempts while going six for six at the line to top all Nittany Lion scorers with 27 points. 15 of Singletary's 20 points came in the second half or overtime as the sophomore continued to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, securing eight offensive rebounds and totaling 18 boards in the contest.
Rounding out the top scorers for Hazleton were Dwayne Richardson and Greg DePaolis. Richardson found his shot from beyond the arc, scoring four times from long range to tally a season high 14 points to go along with four assists. DePaolis offered up his best night in a Nittany Lion uniform, totaling 17 points and pulling in eight rebounds in the winning effort.
Crunch time for the Nittany Lions as they look to get back in the playoff hunt. Tough matchups loom for Hazleton but the Lions get the benefit of their final five games of the regular season coming on their home floor. Hazleton next takes the court on Wednesday, February 3 when Penn State Worthington Scranton visits the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnaiusm for an 8:00 p.m. contest.