Scranton, Pa. - Hazleton tipped off the 2021-22 season on Thursday night at Lackawanna County Community College, ending a 21 month hiatus from intercollegiate play. Undersized in comparison to the Falcons, the Nittany Lions posted a scrappy defensive effort but a combination of sub-par shooting by Hazleton and a 21-3 advantage in bench scoring by the Falcons resulted in a disappointing 72-61 finish and Hazleton first loss of the season.
Lackawanna led off the game with an ominous stretch of three straight offensive rebounds resulting in a put-back and the game's only lead change. The Falcons proceeded on a 7-0 run until senior Daniel Gendimenico (Hazleton, Pa.) broke the ice for Hazleton three minutes into the action. A 6-0 run by Hazleton midway through the first half that included buckets from senior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) and freshman Colin Johnson (Raleigh, Nc.) allowed Hazleton to knot the score at 16 each but the Falcons responded quickly to stretch the lead back out to nine points. Chasing 25-16, Hazleton bounced back with an 11-6 run to close out the first half and trail by just four points at the break.
Hazleton kept the Falcon attack in check during the first half but the home team slowly expanded their lead in the final period of the game. After shooting just 35 percent from the field in the opening period, the Falcons hit their stride after the halftime break, shooting 50 percent from the field in the second half and over 35 percent from long range, keeping Hazleton at arms length for the duration of the game. The Lions kept Lackawanna in check defensively, winning the turnover battle 22-15 and despite the Falcon's size advantage, Hazleton's efforts on the glass were commendable but Thursday's game was decided by the shooting column. The Lions totaled just five triples on the night on 30 attempts from beyond the arc and got just two points from the bench while Lackawanna registered eight triples and 21 bench points in the 72-61 victory.
Leading all scorers on the night was Lackawanna's Jaylen Davis who totaled 25 points with 15 rebounds and four assists. Hazleton was led by Kwiatkowski who notched 22 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Other Nittany Lions in double-figures included Gendimenico with 13 points and 11 rebounds along with freshman Paul Feisel (Slocum, Pa.) who went 4-for-11 from the field for 11 points.
Next up: Hazleton returns to the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium for the the first home game of the season on Monday, November 8 for non-conference bout with King's College at 7:00 p.m.