Monaca, Pa. - In their first action in nearly two weeks, the Lady Lions were back on the court Friday night against the defending Penn State University Athletic Conference champions in Penn State Beaver. Both teams faced difficulty in the turnover category but it would be Hazleton who won that battle, scoring 32 points off Beaver miscues. That advantage proved to be too little for the Lady Lions who faced foul trouble in the first half, allowing Beaver to surge ahead to a nine point lead. Beaver benefitted from 34 bench points to just five for Hazleton as they maintained their advantage through the second half to knock off the Lady Lions in the conference opener by the final score of 74-64.
Sophomore McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) was red hot in the first half, netting seven of nine shot attempts to finish the game with a team high 19 points and three steals. Joining the point guard in double figures for Hazleton was sophomore Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, Ny.) and junior Jacqlyn Siva-Harrison (South Brunswick, Nj. Laster finished the game with 17 points going seven for nine from the charity stripe while Siva-Harrison added 11 points and seven steals.
Roxy Kie was a perfect four for four in the first half for Beaver, including a pair of triples for 11 first half points. Kie would cool off in the second half but finished the game with a team high 16 in scoring column. Cassandra Flowers brought in 10 rebounds and matched Kie's output with 16 of her own, including her career 1,000th point in the fourth quarter. Rounding out the top scorers for Beaver was Mason Depetro with 13 points in the win for Beaver.
Both teams struggled to possess the ball in the opening minutes of play but it was Hazleton who was able to capitalize on a string of early turnovers. McKenzie Prutsman and Ijonana Laster both converted on the fastbreak using three Lady Lion steals to build a quick 8-3 lead in the first period. But Beaver stormed back to claim the lead thanks in part to an nine point quarter by Roxy Kie. Kie was a perfect three for three from the field, knocking in a pair of triples and a free throw to give Beaver a slim 16-15 advantage after the the first quarter.
Pace of play picked up in the second quarter but as the period progress, foul trouble for the Lady Lions led to miss-matches in the paint. Beaver took advantage of Hazleton's small lineup to rake in seven offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to 10 second chance points. Beaver built up a an eight point lead midway through the quarter before Prutsman and the Lady Lions struck for three quick lay-ups to keep within striking distance. With under two minutes to play in the half, Beaver reclaimed control of the game with a 9-2 to finish out the quarter, commanding a 41-32 advantage over Hazleton, their largest lead of the game.
A Beaver score to start the second half expanded the home team's lead to double digits but an 8-2 run by the Lady Lions over the next three minutes left Hazleton trailing by just six points midway through the period. Both squads would trade shots until the final two minutes of the third quarter, when a string of four lay-ups by Beaver pushed the lead to as many as 14 points. Nine Beaver fouls in the third quarter failed to translate to a Hazleton run as foul trouble for senior Stephanie Guevara (South Brunswick, Nj.) and Jacqlyn Siva-Harrision, limited the duo's effectiveness in the middle periods. Ijonana Laster closed the quarter with four of her 11 third quarter points, but Hazleton remained trailing by 12.
The Lady Lions began the fourth quarter on an 8-4 run, led by lay-ins from Guevara and sophomore Haley Nalls to cut the Beaver lead to single digits but Hazleton was unable to find the breakthrough run they needed to threaten the defending champions on the their home court. Beaver's lead see-sawed back and forth from single to double digits and with Hazleton in foul trouble, Cassandra Flowers went to work in the paint, tallying seven fourth quarter points to keep Beaver in command and hold on for the 74-64 win.
The Lady Lions continue their PSUAC western road trip on Saturday when they travel to Penn State Greater Allegheny for a 1:00 p.m. tip off. Hazleton will look to get back in the win column and earn their first conference victory of the season against a Greater Allegheny squad that is 1-1 in the PSUAC with a loss to Beaver and win on Friday night over Penn State Schuylkill.