Lehman, Pa. - The Nittany Lions' late rally nearly led to the upset of the year Tuesday night at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Hazleton, the number four seed in the Penn State University Athletic Conference Eastern division, score the final six points of regulation to force an overtime period, however that session would belong the home squad and number one seed in the east. Wilkes-Barre would go on to score the first six points in the extra frame, sinking free throws down the stretch to avoid elimination and capture the win 55-52 over Hazleton.
The Lions jumped on Wilkes-Barre in the early stages of play, taking a 12-6 advantage on a pair of free throws by freshman Scott Shamany (Hazleton, Pa.). As has been the case in recent games however, the Nittany Lions were plagued by a drought in the first half. With just under ten minutes to play, Hazleton tallied just five points to close out the half and if not for some impressive defense of their own, Hazleton could have found themselves in serious trouble. Against a team that averages well over 80 points per game, Hazleton restricted Wilkes-Barre to just 19 attempts from the field, holding the one seed to 24 points and a seven point advantage at halftime.
That defensive effort came at a cost for the Nittany Lions and as play resumed, fouls began to mount for Hazleton. Shamany would earn his fourth foul only two minutes into the second half and minutes later, back to back whistles strapped sophomore Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) with his third and fourth offenses. With the interior defense limited, Wilkes-Barre made sure to take advantage, extending their lead to as many as 15 points midway through the final period.
The future looked grim but with 10:19 to play, Hazleton began to chip away. Wilkes-Barre failed to connect on their next eight attempts from the field and surged on an 11-0 run led by six points from freshman Jordan Graham (Montgomery Village, Md.). Wilkes-Barre stopped the run with 4:28 to play and both squads traded lay-ups heading into the final minutes. With the season on the line, Hazleton held Wilkes-Barre scoreless for the final 3:42 and just four points in the last 10 minutes of the game. With one minute remaining and the Lions trailing 44-38 the offense ignited. Senior Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) spotted Shamany for a close range score and on the ensuing possession, Nowak struck for a lay-up to trim the lead to two points for Wilkes-Barre. Hazleton would be forced to foul, but a miss on the 1-and-1 gave the Lions renewed life. Following a pair of timeouts, Hazleton set up the inbounds play and with two seconds remaining, junior Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) found Graham for the game tying score just before the horn.
Unfortunately for the Lions, their first overtime period of the season would not go as planned. Wilkes-Barre grabbed the first bucket of the period on a second chance opportunity and Hazleton would come up empty at the free throw line to keep pace. Hazleton went scoreless for the first three minutes of the overtime period, seeing Wilkes-Barre extend their lead back to six points. The Lions would put Wilkes-Barre at the line from that point on and give themselves an opportunity behind a pair of triples by Nowak, but with time running out and Hazleton trailing by three, Nowak's final attempt was not to be and the Lions fell 55-52 in extra time.
In a low scoring affair, three Nittany Lions would register double-figures on the night including Nowak playing in his final game in a Nittany Lion uniform. Jordan Graham and Scott Shamany notched a team high 11 points with Shamany adding six boards. Nowak finished with 10 points and three assists.