Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions led by Brandywine by as many as 12 points in the first half of Monday's home event but as time wound down, it would be Brandywine holding on to a slim lead and eventually the win by the score of 71-70. The Nittany Lions out-shot Brandywine from beyond the arc with a solid 45 percent shooting and won the turnover battle though the visitors would neutralize that advantage with an edge in the rebound category by a wide margin of 16 boards. Monday's loss marks the fourth straight defeat for Hazleton who fall to fourth place in the standings with an 8-9 record in the conference.
The Lions got off to a great start and got a shot in the arm by junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) who came off the bench to spark Hazleton with eight points in the opening period. Hazleton would take a 26-14 advantage with 6:50 left in the half until Brandywine found their way to a 10-run of their own. Hazleton got just four points to close out things in the frame though still maintain a slim 30-28 edge at break.
Hazleton would remain tied or in the lead for the first 13 minutes of the second half, but fould were beginning to add up to the Lions giving Brandywine free reign at the basket. With seven minutes remaining Brandywine rattled off six straight to claim a 61-59 advantage and stretched that lead out to as many as six points down the stretch. Hazleton reeled off nine points in the final 3:24 of action and with less than a minute to play had a pair of opportunities to make it a one possession game, only to come up empty. Trailing by four points, a late triple by freshman Jordan Graham (Montgomery Village, Md.) slashed the lead to one point as time expired, ending the game at 71-70 in favor of the visitors.
Kwaitkowski led the Lions with 16 points and two steals in reserve work. Junior Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) totaled 15 points and four assists while freshman Scott Shamany (Hazleton, Pa.) registered 10 points and six rebounds.
Next up: Just two games remain for Hazleton who is in much of need of a win as they seek a playoff berth in the eastern division. The Lions will get a rematch at Penn State York on Thursday, February 14 at 8:00 p.m. looking to seal up a spot in the tournament.