Hazleton, Pa. - Hazleton suffered their second straight one-possession loss on Tuesday night, falling to Penn State Lehigh Valley by the score of 81-78. Hazleton continues to remain on the cusp of knocking off the top teams in the PSUAC Eastern Division but Tuesday's loss drops the squad to 6-7 in the PSUAC and sixth in the eastern division standings.
Another back and forth contest in the PSUAC saw Hazleton and Lehigh Valley trade shots all night. Hazleton battled back from a six point deficit midway through the opening half to lead by five points with four minutes to play, until Lehigh Valley sprung to life out of a timeout with their patented fast-break offense. The visitors proceeded on a 12-2 run in closing minutes, leaving Hazleton trailing 38-33 at the close of the first period.
That run continued after the half time break, and Lehigh Valley opened up a 15 point cushion five minutes into the second period. Facing their largest deficit of the night, Hazleton found a response from a wide range of players contributing off the Nittany Lion bench. Freshman Colin Johnson (Raleigh, NC) tallied eight second half points including a huge triple late in regulation. Combine that with an eight point, nine rebound half from senior Daniel Gendimenico (Hazleton, Pa.) and another monster second half by senior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) and the Lions roared back to make it a one possession game with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Despite the outpouring of offense from the Lions, Lehigh Valley weathered the storm and kept their offense in tact, tallying 43 points of their own in the second half to maintain a slim lead by the end of the game. Hazleton got one last chance opportunity, turning over Lehigh Valley on an inbounds play with four seconds to play. Hazleton got the steal and hurled up a potential game-tying triple, but the ball ticked off the rim, falling to the floor with time expired.
Four Nittany Lions finished the game in double-figures including three reserve players. Gendimenico ended the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of action with freshman Paul Feisel (Slocum, Pa.) adding 11 points and four rebounds while Colin Johnson totaled 10 points with a pair of steals. Great efforts respectively but the top effort from Hazleton came from Kwiatkowski. The senior went for 31 points on Tuesday, including 20 in the second half alone. He ended the night 13-of-26 from the field and 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, sparking the Lions second half comeback.
Next up: No rest for the weary as Hazleton continues to face the buzzsaw that is the PSUAC East with a home matchup against Penn State Schuylkill on Thursday night with tip-off slated for 8:00 p.m. in the Dr. THomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.