Hazleton drops overtime battle at York

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

York, Pa. - Hazleton and York battled to a stalemate after 40 minutes of action Monday night at Penn State York as both squads fought for the number three seed in the PSUAC Eastern Division. But it would be York coming out on top in extra time, edging the Nittany Lions with some late free throws to claim victory 64-61, dropping Hazleton to 11-7 in conference play this season. 

This one was pretty much even from start to finish. Both squads matched up well in the stat column, shooting close to 32 percent from the field. Hazleton won the battle on the glass by a slim 41-36 margin and had 16 assists on the night, but York countered by forcing 16 Hazleton turnovers and holding a small advantage from the free throw line. As a result, it's no wonder this wonder came down to the wire.

Despite eight ties and nine lead changes, neither squad led by more than eight points at any point in the clash. York carried a three point cushion into the halftime break but Hazleton responded with a 16 point third quarter led by freshman Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) who knocked in two of her five triples on the night in the third frame. Hazleton came into the fourth quarter leading 49-48 but both teams would struggle during the final 10 minutes of play. Hazleton got a pair of baskets from Rodriguez and freshman Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) to take a 54-50 lead two minutes into the final quarter, but the Lions offense stalled out for almost four straight minutes, allowing York to surge ahead with a 7-0 run of their own. Hazleton held the York offense scoreless for the final five minutes of regulation but even with the missteps from York, the Lions struggled to take advantage. A field goal from junior Justine Bernazeau (Trelissac, FR) and a free throw from Azaria Johnson tied the game at 57 each with nearly two and a half minutes to play, but neither team could convert down the stretch. 

The overtime period started out in Hazleton's favor as Azaria Johnson and Cassandra Rodriguez connected on two field goals to give Hazleton a 61-57 lead but Hazleton would come up empty for the final 3:30 of extra time. York's Nicole Sharpe used the drought to York's advantage, scoring a pair of buckets to tie the game, and coverting two free throws with one minute to play to give York a 63-61 lead. Hazleton misfired on their final two possessions, allowing York to escape with a slim, three point overtime victory. 

Sharpe carried the York squad all night, including the overtime heroics. She finished the game tied for a team-high 16 points, accounting for over half of York's rebounds with 20 boards to her credit. Jayla Brown matched Sharpe with 16 points while Desii Garcia-Hernandez totaled 12 points with six assists in the win. Hazleton was led by Rodriguez who struck for five triples Monday night, scoring a season-high 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Azaria Johnson posted a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds in her first action in a week with freshman Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.) notching six points with 13 rebounds, three assists and four steals. 

Next up: Monday's loss locks Hazleton into the four-seed in the Eastern Division standings heading into the final PSUAC regular season contest. The Lions will hit the road on Thursday, February 17 to square off with Penn State Schuylkill at 6:00 p.m. and will await the results of the other matches in the PSUAC East to determine the final standings. Regardless of Thursday's outcomes, Hazleton will host a post-season game on Saturday, February 19 in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.