Media, Pa. - Hazleton survived a late rally at Penn State Brandywine on Tuesday night, holding off the defending Penn State University Athletic Conference champions to tally a win in the first conference game of the 2018-19 season. Hazleton pulled away by as many as 17 points in the second half and held on win in the final minutes by the score of 68-61.
Sophomore Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) put up big numbers to help Hazleton notch the conference victory. Mohammed totaled 17 points, 14 rebounds and a pair blocks, nearly all of which came in the second half. Junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) added 16 points off the Hazleton bench on 6-of-11 shooting marking the junior's fourth consecutive outing with double-figures in the scoring column. Senior Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) equaled his season-high in front of his home crowd with a 13 point effort including a 6-for-7 performance from the free throw line to round out the top scorers for the Nittany Lions.
The first half of Tuesday's game was back and forth with neither squad gaining much of an edge. Brandywine outrebounded the Nittany Lions 28-16, including eight offensive boards but failed to capitalize on the extra opportunities. Both teams shot an identical 11-of-32 from the field in the period but a pair of free throws gave Hazleton a slim 29-27 advantage at halftime.
That stalemate would change as play resume in the second half. Sparked by five straight points from Nowak to lead off the final period, the Nittany Lions struck for a 15-2 run in the first nine minutes of the second half. Hazleton forced eight Brandywine turnovers over that stretch and defensively held Brandywine to just 1-for-13 during the run.
The Lions extended their lead to as many as 17 but with 7:28 remaining in the game, Brandywine began to chip away at the deficit. Aided by three long range makes, the home team reeled off a 22-5 run of their own to knot the score at 59 each with just over 2:30 to play in the game. WIth the game on the line, Hazleton got key baskets from sophomore Shay Nelson (Blakeslee, Pa.) and Brandon Mohammed, putting the Lions up four points inside of two minutes, part of a 9-3 Hazleton run to close out the game.
Next up: Conference play gets into full swing over the weekend with a pair of contests from the PSUAC western division. The Lions will take on Greater Allegheny on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. followed by a 3:00 p.m. matchup with Penn State DuBois, both games being held in the Dr. Thomas M. Cacesse Gymnasium.