Hazleton victorious in clash with Penn State York

Azaria Johnson looks to pass on the wing.
Azaria Johnson looks to pass on the wing.

Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions trailed for much of Tuesday night's battle with Penn State York but broke through late in the action to secure their ninth conference victory of the 2021-22 season with a 55-52 win on their home court. 

A five point first quarter by the Nittany Lions nearly spelled disaster against the number three team in the PSUAC eastern division but Hazleton cleaned up the miscues in the second period and got a combined 14 points from freshman Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) and sophomore Emily Titus (Tamaqua, Pa.). Their efforts combined with a defensive effort that forced eight York turnovers allowed the Lions to charge back from an 11 points first quarter deficit, trimming the margin to just one point by halftime. 

In the second half, both squads traded blows although York maintained a slim advantage or tied with Hazleton from the six minute mark in the third until there was less than a minute to play in the game. Despite having to chase for the majority of the evening, Hazleton's persistence paid off with a five point run sparked by a triple from Cassandra Rodriguez that tied the game with 1:14 remaining. Hazleton proceeded to force York's 21 turnover on the next possession and Titus made the visitors pay with her seventh field of night on the ensuing possession to give Hazleton a 53-51 lead with 43 seconds remaining. York earned a trip to the free throw line on their next possession but converted just one of two from the line, forcing the visitors to send the Lions to the stripe to regain possession. Cool and collected, Azaria Johnson sank both free throws at the opposite end, giving Hazleton their largest lead of the night at 55-52 and a last ditch effort by York ended with a crucial turnover in the final seconds of the game to give Hazleton the victory. 

This one was about as even as it gets in box score. York and Hazleton were locked in a dead heat statistically in shooting percentage, rebounds and turnovers, but Hazleton transformed York's 23 turnovers into 22 points compared to just eight points off turnovers for the visitors. York had three players in double-figures on the night, led by Nicole Sharpe who registered a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. For Hazleton, it was the duo of Johnson and Titus who paced the field, combining for 38 of the Lions 55 points. Johnson turned in her fourth game of 20 (or more) points, going 6-for-14 from the field and an impressive 8-for-8 from the free throw line while leading the Lions with 13 rebounds. Titus was just as formidable, notching 18 points on 7-of-17 from the field, adding seven rebounds and a pair of steals to help the Lions come away with a big win. 

Next up: The Lions host Cairn University in their final non-conference game of the regular season on Friday night in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.