Hazleton splits weekend road trip vs. PSUAC West

Azaria Johnson drives to the basket.
Azaria Johnson drives to the basket.

Hazleton, Pa. - Hazleton's weekend road trip to Penn State New Kensington and Penn State Shenango ended in a draw as the Lions split the weekend series versus the western division. Hazleton was rolling on offense Friday night, getting a season high 29 points from sophomore Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) in 78-52 at New Kensington but fell Saturday afternoon thanks in part to disastrous start to the second half at Shanango. There, a 17 point deficit in the third period spelled defeat for Hazleton who lost to the home team by the score of 71-63 and moving Hazleton to a record of 4-2 in the PSUAC. 

Friday, December 2 - Penn State Hazleton 78, Penn State New Kensington 52 - Final

Thanks to a hot start, the Nittany Lions never trailed on Friday night at New Kensington. Rodriguez and sophomore Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) combined for 16 of Hazleotn's 22 points in the first quarter, seeing the Lions take a commanding 11 point cushion into the second period. Much of the remaining of the half would result in both squads trading baskets and Hazleton took a 39-27 lead into the locker room at halftime. As play resumed, New Kensington hung with Hazleton until the Lions caught fire midway through the period. With just under six minutes remaining in the third, the Lions went on to finish the period on a 22-11 run, including a 12-3 run in the final three minutes of the third quarter. Hazleton led by 22 points heading into the fourth and cruised to the finish line. The Lions led by as many as 34 points late in the fourth, allowing them to milk the clock with little to no difficulties late. 

Rodiguez was electric from beyond the arc in Friday's win. After netting two triples in the first quarter, the sophomore connected on four more triples in the middle quarters, totaling six from long range on the night. Rodriguez ended the night as the game's leading scorer, notching 29 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 from beyong the arc. Sophomore Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.) pitched in with 17 points, six rebounds and four steals while Johnson added 11 points despite being hampered with foul trouble.

Saturday, December 3 - Penn State Hazleton 63, Penn State Shenango 71 - Final

Hazleton nearly blew out the home team Shenango with second great start to a game in as many days. The Lions led by as many as 16 points in the first half with 11 points in the half coming from Rocky Curry and 15 point effort from Cassandra Rodriguez that included three triples in the first 20 minutes of action. Shenango responded late in the half with three triples of their own and trimmed Hazleton's cushion to just six points with a pair of free throws at the end of the period. Hazleton has made a habit of playing great after the halftime break but that was not the case on Saturday. The Lions went just 3-for-17 in the period, watching their lead evaporate and trailed by 11 heading into the fourth quarter. Rodriguez knocked in her fifth three pointer of the day to trim the lead to five points but Shenango proceeded on a 16-5 run over the next four minutes of action and sealing up the win in the process. 

Rodriguez was great again on Saturday, connecting for a game high 26 points to go along with four steals in the loss. Curry added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Azaria Johnson put up a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds but it was not enough to overcome the poor shooting in the third quarter. 

Next up: After back to back games this weekend, Hazleton has six days off before their next matchup. The Lions will square off with Penn State Schuylkill on Saturday, December 10 in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium.