Cougars Happy To Be Home

December 21, 2018
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Cougars Happy To Be Home

HAZLE TWP. — Christmas crooners insist there’s no place like home for the holidays.

For the Hazleton Area boys basketball team, there’s no place like home — period.

Playing their first game at Hughie McGeehan Gymnasium after losing three in different corners of Pennsylvania to start the season, the Cougars outran GAR 79-47 in the Wyoming Valley Conference opener for both teams on Thursday night.

“It’s always good being here,’’ said senior wing Da’mir Faison, who poured in a career-high 32 points on a wide array of shots from at the rim to beyond the arc and seemingly everywhere in between.

Faison also used his 6-foot-5 frame to keep Will Johnson, GAR’s silky smooth senior guard, under control for the most part. Johnson came into the game averaging 28 points per contest.

“Just being my last season and my last home opener and getting the chance playing in front of these fans, who come here to support us night in and night out, it’s always exciting,’’ Faison said.

Offensively, Faison netted seven points in the first quarter, but five Grenadiers (2-2, 0-1) shared in their scoring to stake the visitors to an 18-13 lead by the end of the quarter.

GAR’s advantage was still 24-20 after Johnson cashed a steal into a layup with a 3:28 left before halftime.

But the Cougars (1-3, 1-0) closed the first half on a 12-2 run that turned the game’s momentum completely in their favor.

Kyle Franek got it started with a foul shot, Andrew Vayda fed Warren Seigendall for a deuce, reserve Scotty Campbell knocked down a triple from the corner and then a baseline jumper and Vayda set up Faison and Campbell for layups to give Hazleton Area 32-26 lead at the break.

“We (started) getting a lot of points in the paint,’’ Faison said. “We started off a little rough in the first half with our execution ... but once we got the ball moving, we began clicking and we were able to pull away.’’

The Cougars’ barrage carried over into the third quarter as Faison connected for six quick points and Ryan “Sparky’’ Wolk added a triple that made it 41-28.

GAR never was within double digits again.

By the time that the third quarter was over, Vayda canned his own 3-pointer, Franek tossed in four points, Vayda made two free throws, Campbell drove the lane for a hoop, Faison banked in a jumper and Jecxander Moronta-Alvarez put back a teammate’s miss, extending Hazleton Area’s lead to 58-38.

After Faison started the final period with another six points, Cougars’ coach Mike Joseph emptied his bench. Many reserves eventually got into the scoring column to help Hazleton Area erase the memories of the season-opening losses to Erie McDowell, Pittsburgh Allderdice and Scranton Prep.

“I think we accomplished some stuff since our last game (at Scranton Prep on Dec. 12),’’ Joseph said. “I always have to take a step back and remember that for a lot of these guys, it’s the first time they’re starting or playing in a Wyoming Valley Conference game. ... We’ve had to be patient.’’

The Cougars will return to action on Saturday at Tunkhannock, a 54-34 winner over Dallas on Wednesday.

“When we got together last Saturday, I told the guys, ‘If only our execution can catch up to our effort, we’re gonna put ourselves in position to be successful and win some games moving forward.’

“And I thought our execution was pretty darn good tonight.’’

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


GAR (47) — Rodriguez 0 1-2 1, Johnson 7 3-5 18, Adamson 0 0-0 0, O’Day 2 0-0 4, Placecio 3 2-2 8, Young 4 2-2 12, Holmand 0 0-0 0, Cu. Smith 1 1-3 3, Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Cu. Smith 0 1-2 1. Totals 17 10-16 47.

HAZLETON AREA (79) — Gil 0 0-0 0, Vayda 1 2-2 5, Wolk 2 0-0 5, Campbell 6 0-0 14, D’Angelo 0 0-0 0, Franek 2 3-4 7, Nieves 0 0-0 0, Moronta-Alvarez 3 0-0 8, Norman 0 0-0 0, Melendez 2 0-0 4, Faison 12 7-8 32, Seigendall 1 2-2 4. Totals 29 14-16 79.

GAR (2-2, 0-1) 18 8 12 9 — 47 HA (1-3, 1-0) 13 19 26 21 — 79

3-point FGs: Young 2, Johnson, Campbell 2, Moronta-Alvarez 2, Vayda, Wolk, Faison

JV score: Hazleton Area 58-28