Hazleton, Pa. - With the final two games of the regular season looming, the Lady Lions would need at least one win as they took on their main competition for one of the final two remaining playoff spots in the eastern division. Thursday's run-in at Penn State York ended in disappointment, extending Hazleton's losing skid to four games while hiking up the pressure for Friday's home game against Penn State Scranton. With their postseason hopes on the line, Hazleton turned in a dominant performance on senior night, capping the regular season with a 25 point win to capture their sixth conference victory.
Thursday, February 14: Penn State Hazleton 63, Penn State York 77 - Final
York, Pa. - Thursday's game was a statistical stalemate in every way but one. Both teams shot near identical percentages on the evening but Hazleton's deficit in the rebounding column would result in their defeat. York's 48-33 advantage in the rebounding column equaled 12 second chance points and a multitude of extra possessions, many of which came in the fourth quarter and halted any thoughts of a comeback for the Lions. Hazleton would trail York by just two points at the midway point until York warmed up in the second half. The home squad used a 48 percent shooting effort and 24 second half rebounds to pull ahead by double-figures and seal up the victory.
Back from injury, senior Mckenzie Prutsman (Jasper, Ny.) returned to form to total a game high 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, adding six boards and six assists in the losing effort. Sophomore Lauren Pataki (Hazleton, Pa.) pitched in a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds while junior Mekenzie Wolfe (Grove City, Pa.) totaled 12 points with a pair of blocks.
Friday, February 15: Penn State Hazleton 79, Penn State Scranton 54 - Final
Hazleton, Pa. - Thursday's loss created a must win scenario on Friday night and with Pataki and Prutsman playing in their final game on the floor of the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium, the Lady Lions did not disappoint. Hazleton notched their highest point total since their January 12 win at Wilkes-Barre, playing an inspired game from the opening whistle.
The Lady Lions grabbed the lead early and never relinquished it to Scranton. Prutsman grabbed three steals in the first half, torching her opponent for 25 first half points and giving Hazleton a 37-26 cushion at the midway point. Hazleton would go on to seal up the win with a tremendous third quarter spurred on by the shooting of Pataki, Wolfe and sophomore Devon Keiper (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) but not before Scranton made things interesting.
The visitors clawed back into the game with a 9-2 to start the second half until the Hazleton took over. Prutsman would start the run with a coast to coast finish off one of her six rebounds on the night followed by three scores from Wolfe and a pair of triples by Pataki and Keiper. Pataki would cap a 14-0 run by the Lady Lions over a four minute period to boost the lead back to 18 points and finish the period off with her second trifecta. When the dust settled, Hazleton would allow just two points over the final seven minutes and change of the third quarter, extending their lead to 62-37.
Hazleton continued to pour on the offense in the final stanza, building a 35 point cushion at one point in the quarter. With less than two minutes to play and the game well in hand, Prutsman got her final curtain call on her home court as the Lady Lions cruised to the final horn for the 25 point win.
Prutsman's commanding first half performance would continue in the second half but this time as chief distributer. The senior dished out six assists in the final half, ending the game with 33 points, eight assists and four steals. Those numbers would all be game highs for the senior, a fitting finale for Prutsman on her home court.
Pataki also posted a banner night in her final home game, registering a season high 23 points. Pataki shot 8-of-19 from the field which included three triples, adding seven boards and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the win. Wolfe rounded out Hazleton's top performers on Friday with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Next up: With York's loss to Penn State Beaver on Saturday, Hazleton has punched their ticket to the playoffs. Stay tuned for updates on the Lady Lions final position in the tournament. Hazleton will have a road game on Tuesday, February 19.