Hazleton, Pa. - Penn State Hazleton's women's squad improved to 9-6 in the PSUAC with a win on Wednesday night, topping Penn State Brandywine by the score of 73-62. Five Nittany Lions topped double figures in the win and Hazleton shot 50 percent from beyond the arc in their pursuit of a berth in the conference playoffs.
The first half of Wednesday night's game was about as close as it gets. Brandywine led on two occasions early in the ball game but Hazleton took command with roughly four minutes to play in the first period. The Lions led by as many as six points after an 8-0 run midway through the quarter until Brandywine closed the gap with the final four points, trailing Hazleton 20-18 at the first intermission. Brandywine reclaimed the lead as the second quarter began, but Hazleton responded with a triple from sophomore Ashley James (Weatherly, Pa.) to capture a slim advantage for the Lions. The Nittany Lions held Brandywine scoreless for nearly seven minutes in the second period and led by as many as nine points at one point but Hazleton could only muster one field goal in the final 5:30 of the half, allowing Brandywine to creep back into the picture. Brandywine finished the quarter on a 7-0 run, trailing 32-30 at halftime.
Hazleton started the second half with back to back triples by senior Justine Bernazeau (Trelissac, FR) and Ashley James, boosting the lead back to eight points right out of the gate. Just when Hazleton thought they had some breathing room, Brandywine stormed back to tie the game on two occasions in the third. Hazleton landed themselves in the bonus midway through the quarter and used that to their advantage. The Lions converted 5-of-8 free throws down the stretch, capping the quarter with an offensive rebound and a put-back by sophomore Azaria Johnson (Richmond Hill, Ga.) to carry a five point advantage into the final quarter.
In a game full of runs, the fourth quarter was no different. Johnson and James started off the period with a pair of lay ups for Hazleton to increase their lead to 55-46 but Brandywine but a 7-0 run by the visitors left Brandywine trailing by just two points with seven minutes to play. Hazleton came right back with a lay up by sophomore Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.) followed by triples from sophomore Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) and Justine Bernazeau. With less than five minutes to play, Hazleton and Brandywine would trade scores over the next two minutes but the Lions pulled away late, holding Brandywine to just one free throw in the final two minutes of the game to win by 11 points, their largest lead of the night.
All seven players for Hazleton contributed in the scoring column, led by James who cashed in 7-of-10 shots from the field. James totaled 16 points with three rebounds and four assists in the win while Azaria Johnson totaled 14 points with three assists, two steals and one blocked shot. Others in double figures included senior Natasha Feliciano (Cainovas, PR) with 12 points and nine rebounds, Cassandra Rodriguez with 11 points and three assists, and Justine Bernazeau with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Rocky Curry tallied just five points in the contest but dominated the glass to the tune of a game-high 16 rebounds.
Next up: Hazleton will look to continue their march to the postseason on Saturday, February 11 when the Lions travel to Penn State Wilkes-Barre for a 1:00 p.m. conference bout.