Lions win two to closeout the first half of the season

Hazleton, Pa. - Great team defense, taking care of the rock, and good shooting from behind the arc were just the right recipe to send Hazleton into the semester break on a two game win streak and to get them above .500 for the season (6-5 overall and 5-3 PSUAC).

vs. Penn State New Kensington

On Friday night in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium, Hazleton defeated Penn State New Kensington in commanding fashion 77-29. The local Lions' defense caused 31 turnover and held the western Pa. Lions to under 20% (11-for-56) shooting from the field, while their offense only turned the ball over 12 times, and shot nearly 40% (32-for-81) from the field and 43.8% (7-for-16) from behind the arc.

First-year player Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) led the way with a career- and game-high 25 points on 47% (9-for-19) shooting from the field and a stellar 6-for-8 from three. Rodriguez was joined in double digits by three of her teammates. Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.) matched her career-high point total of 15 and added a career- and game-high 13 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Ashley James (Weatherly, Pa.) also posted career-highs in points and rebounds, 10 and 9, respectively. Rounding out the double digit scoring for Hazleton, Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) finished the game with 10 points and a game-high 4 steals. Hazleton played very unselfishly as it posted 24 assists on 32 made baskets. Curry dished out a game-high 8 assists. Justine Bernazeau (Trelissac-Dordogne, France) added 5 and Savannah Bauer (San Jose, CA) had 4 dimes of her own.  

Penn State New Kensington, despite their shooting woes, had two players in double digits. Deshaya Chavis had 15 points and Shaylynne Boitnott had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

vs. Penn State Shenango

The successes from Friday night's rout of Penn State New Kensington flowed over into Saturday afternoon's hard fought win against visiting Penn State Shenango. Hazleton used good shooting (46.7% from the field and 42.9% from three), unselfish play (22 assists on 28 made baskets), an edge on the boards (42-34), and a fourth quarter surge to hold off the visiting Lions 77-67.

Johnson's hot start (5-for-6 from the field for 10 points) kept the local Lions on pace with Aneziah Fryer's 6-point quarter and the Penn State Shenango squad as the quarter ended knotted at 16. After a scoreless first quarter for Rodriguez, she heated up in the second where her 4-for-6 three-point shooting netted her 12 points, nearly outscoring the entire Shenango team (14 points) for the stanza and taking her team into halftime with a 4-point lead, despite their eight second quarter turnovers. 

The third quarter started with Shenango scoring on three of its first four possessions to pull ahead of the local Lions 37-34, but Rodriguez answered with a 3-point basket off an assist from Curry to stop the 7-0 run and tie the game. However, over the next six and a half minutes Shenango would go on a 12-5 run that put the visiting Lions up 10 (52-42) at the 1:36 mark of the quarter. Hazleton would go on a seven point run of their own before the end of the quarter sparked by an offensive rebound and a put back by James and another by Curry on their next possession. After a missed three-point basket by Anye' Shabazz of Shenango, Rodriguez ended the quarter as she started it with a three-point conversion. This one was off an assist by Bernazeau that put Hazleton back to within 3 (52-49) going into the fourth.

Saving their best for the final quarter, Hazleton used 8-for-12 (66.7%) shooting from the field, 3-for-5 (60%) shooting from beyond the arc, and 9-for-10 (90%) shooting from the charity stripe to score 28 points and pull ahead of Shenango for the win. Each of Hazleton's eight made baskets came on assists and they outrebounded the visiting Lions 12-3.   

In similar fashion to Friday night, Rodriguez posted a team- and career-high 26 points. Johnson had a well-rounded game, adding 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 10 rebounds for her third double-double in 11 games. She also went 2-for-2 from the free throw line and had 4 assists. James also bested the career-high point total (10) she posted Friday night by sinking 11 points and pulling down 5 rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end of the floor. Sharing the basketball was the theme of the weekend for Hazleton who dished out 46 assists on their 60 made baskets over the two games. And no one shared with her teammates more Saturday afternoon than Bernazeau who finished the game with a career- and game-high 14 assists to go with her 6 points and 5 rebounds. 

Penn State Shenango did not go down without a fight from Aneziah Fryer whose 7-for-12 three point shooting led her to a 29-point game-high outing. Fryer also had 5 steals and 4 assists on the day.

Next up: Hazleton will have a month-long break and will return to action on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at home against non-conference opponent University of Maine-Fort Kent. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.