Monaca, Pa. - Hazleton followed up its Penn State University Athletic Conference win over Lehigh Valley on Tuesday with another thrilling contest on Friday night when they took on Penn State Beaver on their home turf.
Beaver had a clear advantage in the paint, out-rebounding Hazleton by a margin of 15 but the Nittany Lions were red hot from beyond the arc. Seven Nittany Lions connected for 10 triples while Beaver struggled from long range to the tune of two of 26 shooting. Hazleton's outside game neutralized Beaver's 44 points in the paint and made for quite a show for fans.
Friday's game came down to which squad had the hot hand late in a contest dominated by offensive runs. Beaver moved ahead with a 10-0 run to start the second half, but went cold as Hazleton bounced back midway through the final period, surging past Beaver on a 21-0 run of their own. Beaver would nip at the Lions heels down the stretch and get within five points of the Lions, but juniors Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) and Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) still had gas in the tank, combining for four field goals in the final two minutes of play to give Hazleton the 77-66 win.
Four Nittany Lions tallied double digit evenings on the hardwood. Singletary led the way with 13 of his team high 17 points coming in the second half, adding eight rebounds in the win. In just 18 minutes of the bench, sophomore Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) was perfect from the field, totaling 14 points that included four long range baskets. Rounding out the top scorers for a Hazleton team who shot nearly 56 percent from the field were sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) and Kyle Kelly with 13 and 12 points respectively.
Penn State Beaver was led by Demetres Moore who went nine for 18 from the field to total 17 points. Teammate Dominique Stevenson added 13 points and seven rebounds while Alleyne Ignacio tallied 12 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
The first half saw momentum swings for the teams after a slow start to the period turned to a feverish pace. Sophomore Nick Nowak's (Philadelphia, Pa.) triple at the 14 minute mark sparked a 14-7 run by the Nittany Lions over a five minute stretch in the first half to give Hazleton their largest lead of the period. That lead however would be short lived, as Beaver shut down the Lions over the next four minutes of play, reclaiming a 26-24 lead in the process. A jumper by freshman Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) would stop the bleeding with 5:30 to play in the half and both teams would trade blows down the stretch, but Hazleton would earn a slight 37-35 edge heading into halftime. Hazleton sank six triples in the half courtesy of five different Nittany Lions, including two from DePaolis to counter Beaver's eight second chance opportunities and 22 first half points in the paint.
The home squad came out of the locker room determined to claim victory and shocked Hazleton with with a 10-0 run to start the period, giving Beaver its largest lead of the game at 45-37. Scoreless in the first four minutes of the half, the Lions regrouped after a lay-up from Singletary stopped the Beaver run and now it was Hazleton's turn to go on the attack. The Lions turned one and done opportunities on Beaver's end of the floor into instant offense as all five Hazleton players on the floor contributed to a massive run by the Lions. DePaolis struck for three buckets including a pair of triples over the next five minutes of action to lead Hazleton on a 21-0 run and a 13 point advantage on the scoreboard.
Hazleton's lead would hover around 10 points until the final three plus minutes of the game when Beaver made one final push. A pair of layups by Dominique Moore capped a 10-3 run by the home team and cut Hazleton's lead to just five points with 1:44 to play. But a pair of steals by Hopkins and junior Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.) saved the day, springing teammates Singletary and Kelly for easy buckets on offensive end, pushing Hazleton's lead back to double digits, resulting in a 77-66 win for the Lions.
Hazleton looks to keep momentum on their side as they continue PSUAC play on Saturday. The Lions will look to remain undefeated in the conference when they travel tomorrow to Greater Allegheny for a 3:00 p.m. tip-off.