Hazleton, Pa. - A hot start for Hazleton simmered in the middle quarters on Friday night against Penn State University Athletic Conference opponent Penn State Schuylkill in the Lady Lions final regular season home game. After surrendering a nine point first quarter advantage in the second period, Hazleton would come back from five points down to take a five point lead in the fourth quarter, but Schuylkill would notch 19 points in the final five minutes of play to spoil the Lady Lions night, issuing Hazleton the 66-60 loss.
Hazleton won the turnover battle handily at 25-11 but that advantage was neutralized on the glass where Schuylkill dominated by a margin of 20 rebounds. Schuylkill would top Hazleton in shooting, scoring at a 36.8 percent clip that included six triples as opposed to just 27.8 percent shooting from the Lady Lions who went just one for 20 in the third quarter that contributed to the Hazleton loss.
Joelle Moyer led Schuylkill with 17 points. Moyer hit three of four attempts from beyond the arc, adding nine rebounds and five assists in the win.
Joining Moyer in double figures was Kelly Shober who notched a double-double off the Schuylkill bench. Shober connected for 10 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Caitria Bowen went six of nine from the field, totaling 13 points and seven rebounds while Makenna Rushannon earned 11 points and six rebounds.
Senior Stephanie Guevara (New Brunswick, Nj.) led Hazleton in the box score with 13 points and three statistical game highs with 17 rebounds, six assists and six steals.
Sophomore Ijonana Laster (Niagara Falls, Ny.) tied a game high with 17 points while sophomore Haley Nalls (York, Pa.) added 12 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Rounding out the top efforts for the Lady Lions was sophomore McKenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) with 11 points and five steals.
Both teams started cold going nearly three minutes of scoreless basketball until Guevara got Hazleton on the board. The Lady Lions would work for a 10-7 lead with three minutes to play in the opening period before pouring on eight points in the final 2:30. Hazleton would build a lead as large as 11 points and finish the quarter on an 8-2 run with three lay ups from Laster and freshman Shelby Berger (Weatherly, Pa.) and a pair of free throws from Prutsman to own an 18-9 advantage at the end of the first.
Schuylkill would repay the favor with an 8-2 run of their own to start the quarter. Trailing Hazleton 23-17 with 6:31 remaining in the half, Schuylkill would strike for another 8-2 run and tie the game at 25 on a Rushannon triple midway through the quarter. Both squads would trade leads to close out the half with Schuylkill earning a slim 33-32 advantage on a Nicole Sacco lay-up in the final 30 seconds of play.
Hazleton would retake the lead early in the third period on a pair of free throws from Guevara, but the Lions would struggle mightily from the field in what proved to a fateful quarter. Both teams would find points hard to come by in the period but with Hazleton nursing a 37-36 lead at the 4:31 mark, Schuylkill would find some rhythm on offense. Rushannon and Moyer would hit on back to back three pointers to put the visitors up five with 3:18 to play, before Guevara would strike for Hazleton's lone field goal of the quarter with just over two minutes to play. Shober would connect to put Schuylkill back up by a five point margin and maintain that cushion heading into the final period.
The Lady Lions would respond with great effort to begin the fourth period. Hazleton went on a 14-4 run featuring five points from Haley Nalls and Prutsman who capped the push with a triple to put Hazleton up 54-49 with 4:31 to play in regulation. But Schuylkill would heat up from mid-range over the next three minutes of action. Shober, Bowen and Moyer would combine for an 8-0 run over the next one minute of action to quickly grab a three point advantage. Hazleton would battle back with three scores down the stretch, knotting the score at 60 on a Guevara lay-up, but Schuylkill would answer down the stretch.
A Nicole Sacco lay-up gave the visitors the slight edge and with the clock winding down. Looking to answer offensively, Hazleton would drive the paint but Caitria Bowen delivered a clutch blocked shot to shut down the Lions on their end. Forced to foul, Schuylkill would go up 63-60 with just 23 seconds to play. Hazleton would come up empty in a last effort to tie the game leading the the six point defeat.
Hazleton will await the results of the final day of PSUAC regular season action to determine final seeding in the postseason. The Lady Lions will host Penn State Fayette or Penn State DuBois in round one of the PSUAC playoffs on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00 pm. in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.