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Cougars Hold Off Comets, Take Over Division Lead

February 6, 2019
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Cougars Hold Off Comets, Take Over Division Lead

HAZLE TWP. — Round 2 to Hazleton Area.

Round 3? Well, wait on that one for now.

Da’mir Faison scored 28 points and four teammates contributed at least seven as the Cougars held off rival Crestwood 56-50 in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 boys’ basketball showdown Tuesday at Hughie McGeehan Gymnasium.

With the win, Hazleton Area eased the sting of last month’s 66-51 loss at Crestwood. More importantly, it put the Cougars one-half game ahead of the Comets in the Division 1 standings heading into their final two regular season games at Pittston Area and at Dallas.

Hazleton Area (13-6, 12-2) limited the cold-shooting Comets to just 10 first-half points on 3-of-21 shooting. Meanwhile, Faison’s 11 points in the first half propelled his team to a 12-point halftime lead.

“It kind of mirrored what we did up there in the first half,’’ winning coach Mike Joseph said. “Tonight the difference was, instead of being up by one point, we were up 12.’’

That’s primarily because the Cougars a more concerted effort to get Faison the ball in the low post to use his 6-foot-5 frame to his fullest advantage. When the Comets (15-4, 11-2) collapsed on Faison, he was wise enough to kick the ball out to open teammates.

In the fourth quarter alone, after Crestwood rallied to pull within a single point, Kyle Franek, Andrew Vayda and Scott Campbell delivered clutch 3-pointers to balance Faison’s prowess from inside the paint. Earlier, Faison found Sparky Wolk for an open triple.

“We had a purpose to get Da’mir the ball in positions where he could score closer to the basket,’’ Joseph said. “As a group in our last game (at Crestwood), we took 51 shots, 26 were 3-pointers. That was not a good percentage for us. … We wanted to look inside to open up the outside.’’

Neither team shot particularly well in the first quarter, which ended with the Cougars on top 9-4. Faison scored five points and Warren Seigendall had five for Hazleton; while Crestwood managed just a Mike Palmiero bucket that gave the Comets their only lead (2-0) and two Camden Boris free throws with less than a minute left in the period.

“We had some shots in the first half, but I thought we played too tentative,’’ Crestwood coach Mark Atherton said. “We played with some urgency in the second half, It was like a football game. You can’t move it all game, but then all of a sudden you can move it. Credit to Hazleton... They played hardd.’’

Hazleton Area’s patience on offense was rewarded with Faison working himself for three inside hoops, two off Wolk assists and another set up by Jecxander Moronota-Alvarez as the Cougars’ lead swelled to 22-10 by halftime.

“I told Da’mir last week, ‘Now’s when you people to see the finished product,’’ Joseph said. “Tonight, he and I were as in sync as maybe we’ve ever been for four quarters in terms of him understanding what I wanted him to do offensively.,,, And he really hit the boards on both ends of the floor.’’

The Comets finally showed signs of life coming out of the locker room as Palmiero’s five points and two Sean Murphy baskets got their team within seven. However, Faison beat the third-quarter buzzer with a jumper that made it 34-24 Cougars at quarter’s end.

Hazleton Area’s lead was still eight when Murphy ignited a Crestwood run that chopped its deficit to 39-37. Later, Ryan Petrosky swished a deep triple that cut it to 41-40 with4:03 still left.

However, that’s when Wolk fed Campbell for a layup and Vayda for a 3-pointer, giving Hazleton Area back its breathing room.

Things won’t get easy for the Cougars at Pittston Area on Thursday, for they needed overtime to beat them here last month.

Contact the writer: dseamon@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3595;

@SeamonSaysSport on Twitter

CRESTWOOD (50) — Petrosky 4 0-0 10, Casarella 0 0-0 0, Papura 1 0-2 2, Murphy 6 7-8 19, Gegaris 0 0-0 0, Boris 1 2-2 4, J. Zaleski 12-2 4, Palmiero 5 1-1 11. Totals 18 12-15 50.

HAZLETON AREA (56) — Vayda 3 0-0 7, Wolk 1 0-0 3, Campbell 3 0-0 7, Franek 1 0-0 3, Moronta 0 0-0 0, Faison 12 4-7 28, Seigendall 1 6-6 8. Totals 21 10-13 56.

Cre (15-4, 11-2) 4 6 14 26 — 50 Haz (13-6, 12-2) 9 13 12 22 — 56

3-point FGs: Petrosky 2, Vayda, Wolk, Campbell, Franek

JV score: Hazleton Area 47-45.

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