Hazleton, Pa. - On an unseasonably warm February afternoon, the shorthanded local Lions dished out 16 assists on their 20 made field goals and used a strong second half to notch their second win in as many games without their leading scorer, Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.), who was unavailable due to COVID protocols. After a quick basket by Wilkes-Barre just 23 seconds into the game, for what would be their only lead of the game, the assist-o-rama began when first-year player Savannah Bauer (San Jose, Ca.) opened up the scoring for Hazleton on an assist by Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.). Despite all five field goals for Hazleton coming on assists in the first quarter, Wilkes-Barre would remain close in the scoring column and only trail by two going into the second quarter. First quarter leaders for Hazleton were Abriana Wills (Childersburg, AL) who led all scorers with five points; Curry with four rebounds; and Emily Titus (Tamaqua, Pa.) with three dimes. Chinelle Nelson led Wilkes-Barre with 4 first quarter points and Jaidyn Kotch had three rebounds.
The visiting Lions would score first in the second quarter to tie the game at 14 a piece at the 9:03 mark, but Hazleton would go on 12-2 run, for their only points in the quarter, getting five points from Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.), four from Titus, and three from Wills to make the score 26-16 with just over two minutes to go in the half. Wilkes-Barre continued to battled and was able to close the 10-point gap in the final two minutes of the frame on a free throw each by Nelson and Sheila Carr, and a buzzer beating layup by Nelson to cut the deficit to 26-20 going into the intermission.
Hazleton used 40% shooting from the field and converted seven out of its 11 free throw attempts while holding Wilkes-Barre to 23.8% shooting in the third to extend their lead to 13 points. Once again unselfish play was the name of the game, as five out of the six made field goals for Hazleton were scored on assists. With Curry, Hazleton's leading rebounder, on the bench for much of the third quarter with foul trouble, Hazleton was outrebounded 15-9, with nine of Wilkes-Barre's 15 rebounds coming on the offensive end of the floor. Luckily for Hazleton, the visiting Lions were only able to score seven points on their second chance opportunities and the quarter ended with Hazleton in front 45-32. Alexa Tihansky (Hazleton, Pa.) led all scorers in the stanza with nine points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the line while Bauer corralled three rebounds. Nelson led the way for Wilkes-Barre with four points and Carr had six rebounds for the visitors, four of which were offensive.
Both teams struggled shooting the ball in the fourth quarter as fatigue became a factor due to the limited number of bench players on each squad. Wilkes-Barre only shot 21.4% from the field in final period and Hazleton was just slightly better at 22.2%. Titus was the exception shooting 50% from the field and 67% from the free throw line for six points to lead all scorers in the frame. She, along with Wills, grabbed four rebounds a piece, and Bauer pulled down three of her own to give Hazleton a 13-10 rebounding edge for the quarter. Rachel Sanchez was the top scorer for Wilkes-Barre with four points and Nelson pulled down three rebounds.
Game leaders: Titus led all scorers with 15 points and posted her second double-double of the season with 12 rebounds. She also had a team-high four assists. Rodiguez added 13 points to her season total to go along with two assists. Tihansky dropped in 9 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Wills had well rounded game with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Bauer also had a solid all around game with six points, seven rebounds, and three assists while Curry had seven rebounds and three assists. Nelson led the way for Wilkes-Barre with a double-double of her own, 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with her four assists and game-high five steals.
Next up: The final week of the regular season has Hazleton on the road to face two tough Eastern Conference opponents. The first game of the week is a Valentines' Day show down at Penn State York at 6:00 p.m. and rounding out the regular season is the second match-up in as many weeks at Penn State Schuylkill with tip-off at 6:00 p.m. as well. The outcome of these games will determine who Hazleton hosts in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday, February 19th.