Hazleton Too Much For Scranton To Overcome
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — For three quarters, Scranton did what it could.
It hung tough on the boards. It hit enough shots to stay within striking distance. It gave itself hope; it gave top-seeded Hazleton a scare.
What is it they say, though, about big players and big moments? Da’Mir Faison did nothing to sully the cliche.
The 6-foot-5 senior turned around an up-and-down start with a nearly perfect finish, scoring nine of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Cougars outlasted the upset-minded Knights, 48-35, in the PIAA District II Class 6A championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“He has been really aggressive this year,” Scranton head coach Tony Battaglia said. “(In the past), he has been undisciplined at times in some aspects of his game. But tonight, he didn’t show any of that. He was a complete player tonight.”
Scranton trailed by just four after three quarters and actually took a 24-23 lead on a Marcus Bauman putback with 3:30 to go in the third quarter. But that seemed to be the moment that sparked Faison.
He answered with a bucket to take the lead back just nine seconds later, starting a run where he’d score 12 of the next 15 Hazleton points. The Cougars went from one point down in that stretch to 10 points ahead, and they never looked back on a Scranton team that hit just two field goals in the fourth quarter.
“(Faison) is a tough player,” Knights senior guard Tahg Jones said. “When he’s on the floor, we had to make sure we all focused on him. But at the same time, they have a lot of good players who can shoot. So you have to keep your head on a swivel and play.”
Faison finished the game hitting 9 of his 13 field goal attempts, but he did most of his damage on the glass, getting several easy putbacks off offensive rebounds. He finished with 11 rebounds despite spending most of the second quarter on the Hazleton bench in foul trouble.
But as Jones said, Faison’s teammates found enough big shot to keep Scranton at bay.
Reserve Scotty Campbell hit two big shots. First, he sent home a bucket, again off an offensive board, as the buzzer sounded to give Hazleton a three-point edge at halftime. The second was a dagger, a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:58 left in the third to extend the Cougars’ lead to 30-26.
Bauman finished with 12 points and seven rebounds to lead the Knights, who never trailed by more than four before that decisive Hazleton run in the fourth quarter.
“I’m real proud of my guys. They gave it an extreme effort tonight,” Battaglia said. “They’re a good basketball team, and when Faison plays basketball, he’s one of the toughest players around.”
As he walked from the court for the final time, Jones knew the score, knew the turning point, knew the massive figure Faison cut both in his uniform and in the boxscore.
But then he looked over to the younger Scranton players milling around under the basket and insisted this spirited postseason run to even play for the title was more about the future than the present.
He wished, for them, the Knights had more answers for Faison. For them, he wished the upperclassmen finished better, that they could have had one more run, that they didn’t let the situation rattle them when the going got tough.
“We started getting down in the second half; we weren’t getting some calls we thought we should get, and it affected our self esteem. Our energy went down,” Jones shrugged. “For us, it was about really enjoying every moment of our season. We really loved our team, really loved our family. We were really just helping the younger guys get ready for next year, to get back here and possibly come in here and win it.
“We’re really close, and that’s all that matters.”
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Scranton (10-14) — M. Bauman 6 0-1 12, T. Jones 2 4-4 8, P. McCormack 2 0-0 6, D. White 2 0-1 4, K. Lazdowsky 2 0-2 4, N. Leety 0 1-2 1, J. Rose 0 0-0 0, J. Shields 0 0-0 0, D. Shears 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 5-10 35.
Hazleton Area (17-6) — D. Faison 9 1-4 19, K. Franek 4 3-5 11, S. Campbell 2 4-4 9, R. Wolk 3 0-1 7, R. Melendez 1 0-0 2, K. Gil 0 0-0 0, A. D’Angelo 0 0-0 0, N. Norman 0 0-0 0, A. Vayda 0 0-1 0, J. Nieves 0 0-0 0, J. Moronta-Alvarez 0 0-2 0, W. Seigendall 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 8-17 48.
Scranton 6 10 12 7 — 35 Hazleton Area 9 10 13 16 — 48
3-point shooting: SCR 2-11 (McCormack 2-2, Jones 0-2, Bauman 0-2, Rose 0-2, Shields 0-3), HAZ 2-13 (Campbell 1-2, Wolk 1-5, Vayda 0-2, Francek 0-2, Faison 0-2). Rebounds: SCR 22 (Bauman 7), HAZ 32 (Faison 11). Assists: SCR 4 (Rose 2), HAZ 5 (Vayda, Wolk, Francek, Faison, Seigendall). Steals: SCR 5 (Rose 3), HAZ 4 (Faison 2). Blocks: SCR 2 (Bauman 2), HAZ 1 (Faison). Turnovers: SCR 15, HAZ 11. Technical foul: Jones.
Turning point: With Hazleton clinging to a 27-26 lead late in the third quarter of a see-saw game, backup swingman Scotty Campbell hauled in a pass from Ryan Wolk and sunk a 3-point dagger that gave the Cougars a four-point lead and took the steam out of Scranton’s upset bid.
Highlight: Da’Mir Faison announced his presence with authority. He got Hazleton Area on the board with a thunderous dunk that got the Cougars fans into the game from the outset. Then, just a few minutes later, he intercepted a pass, dribbled down court and threw down another impressive jam to send Hazleton on its way.