Nittany Lions late rally ends in 78-72 defeat to Penn State Fayette

Solano drives the lane.
Solano drives the lane.

Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (5-7, 3-3 PSUAC) were back in action for the first time since December 9, looking to start off the second half of the season with a Penn State University Athletic Conference win when they faced Penn State Fayette (4-9, 3-2 PSUAC) on Friday, the 13th. The Lions came out of the gates slow, surrendering a 15 point lead to Fayette in the first half, but rallied to close the gap in second half behind stellar efforts from junior Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) and sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.). The pair combined for 25 points in the second half, with Singletary raking in 12 rebounds and four blocks to get Hazleton back in contention. Hazleton would systematically chip away at the Fayette cushion to get within one point with just under four minutes to play, but a 10-5 Fayette run to close out the contest spelled defeat for the Nittany Lions who fell to 3-3 in the PSUAC by the final score of 78-72.

Top Performers

Four Roaring Lions reached double figures in the win, but none were more potent than Dominick Jackson. Jackson slashed through the paint consistently throughout the evening to notch a game high 22 points on eight of twelve shooting from the field. Spencer Perieff would finish the night with 13 points while fellow starter Jordan Pratt notched 10 points and nine rebounds. Tanner Huffman provided a spark off the bench, connecting on a pair of triples to end the night with ten points in relief work.

Singletary would once again rake in a mammoth performance in the paint for the Nittany Lions, tallying 19 points and a season high 21 rebounds, twelve of which came at the offensive end. The junior now has seven double-doubles in his third campaign in a Nittany Lion uniform.

Leading the way in the scoring column for Hazleton was Solano who finished the game with a team high 21 points on nine of twenty shooting from the field, his seventh game of 20 or more points on the 2016-17 season.

1st Half

Singletary would connect on the first jumper of the game but that would remain the Nittany Lions only lead of the first period as the the Fayette squad poured on the offense. The visitors would connect on four long range buckets and penetrate the Hazleton defense to pull ahead 26-11 over the next nine minutes of the first half, opening a commanding lead over the Nittany Lions. But volatile starts have failed to sink the Nittany Lions in previous outings and as the half progressed, the Hazleton defense began to create opportunities on the opposite end. Hazleton would hold Fayette to just 14 points in the final 11 minutes of the first half and slowly began to close the gap, notching 23 points of their own over that stretch to end the half at just a six point deficit with Fayette leading 40-34.

2nd Half

Sparked by quality bench efforts from Marvin Sidon and Tanner Huffman, Fayette grew their lead back to 12 points at the 13:15 mark after trading baskets in the early stages of the second half. That lead would hover above double figures for the next five minutes of play until Hazleton regained momentum in the half.

With eight minutes to play, freshman Robbie Hopkins (Mt. Top, Pa.) struck for a lay-up that sparked the run. Solano followed with one of his own, then hit three baskets from all angles including a long range make, part of a 13-3 Hazleton advance over a three minute stretch that shrunk the deficit to 66-65 in favor of Fayette. Hazleton would trail Fayette by just two points with under three minutes to play but an 8-4 run by the visitors that included a perfect four for four from the charity stripe, shut the door on the Nittany Lion comeback.

Next Up

The Nittany Lions face back to back games at home in the PSUAC this weekend, concluding with Saturday's game in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese gymnasium. Hazleton will square off with a dangerous New Kensington squad at 1:00 p.m. as they look to keep pace in the playoff hunt.