Schuylkill Haven, Pa. - Poor shooting plagued the Nittany Lions all evening as the squad looked for the season sweep Wednesday night at Penn State Schuylkill. Despite shooting just 33 percent overall and 8-of-36 from beyond the arc, the Lions led on several occasions and nearly pulled off a late upset after trailing by nine points with less than one minute to play. The Lions would close to within one point but time would not be on their side as Hazleton fell to Schuylkill 68-67.
Junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) had a bounce back game for Hazleton to notch a team high 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting. The junior made good on 10-of-21 from the field and pulled in nine rebounds with a pair of steals. Kwaitkowski's 18 second half points kept the Lions in the game but ultimately came up just shy from resurrecting the Lions for what wold have been a second straight come-from-behind victory. Freshman Scott Shamany (Hazleton, Pa.) registered his first career double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and a team-high four blocked shots while senior Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) added 15 points and four steals in the defeat.
Both squads were sluggish in the first half although Hazleton would grind out a one point advantage by the midway point. It looked as though Hazleton was on the verge of breaking the game open after a pair of Kwaitkowski jumpers put the squad up by nine with 16 minutes to play but over the next seven minutes of action, Hazleton would go ice cold from the field, allowing Schuylkill to surge ahead behind a 14-3 run. Schuylkill's lead would fluctuate between six and ten points as both squads traded buckets down the stretch and as time crept below one minute remaining, Schuylkill maintained a 67-58 advantage.
With a tough hill to climb, Hazleton forged ahead to force three turnovers in the final minute and a triple from Nowak trimmed the score to 65-68 with five seconds to play. Hazleton stole the ensuing in-bounds pass but it would not be their day as the game-tying triple rimmed out. Shamany would make the put-back lay in to make it a one point affair but with less than one second remaining, Hazleton would be sent home with the loss.
Next up: With five games to play, the Lions' playoff fate still rests in their hands. Hazleton will look to seal up one of the remaining seeds this weekend when the squad heads west for a weekend double-header. Hazleton will take on Penn State Beaver on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. before a Saturday afternoon outing against Penn State Fayette.