Brandywine Rolls Past Hazleton; Reaches 14th-Straight PSUAC Semifinal

Nikki Velez
Nikki Velez

MEDIA, Pa. -- The Penn State Brandywine women's basketball team is one of the four teams still alive for a Penn State University Athletic Conference championship for the 14th-straight season following a 72-53 victory over third-seeded Penn State Hazleton on Tuesday night in the conference's quarterfinal round.

No. 2 Brandywine, which has advanced to the semifinals during all 13 seasons under Head Coach Larry Johnson's guidance, will face off with rival Penn State Beaver, the No. 1 seed from the west in the semifinals. That game will be played Friday night at Beaver at 7:00 pm.

The second-seeded Lions, who have now won at least 18 games in seven consecutive seasons, received 19 points from Nikki Velez (Gloucester, N.J./Gloucester City) backed by five three-pointers She also grabbed five rebounds and three steals. Brandi James (Glenolden, Pa./Interboro) produced her ninth double-double of the year, coupling 17 points with 14 boards, while Nicolette Napoleon (Springfield, Pa./Penn Charter) collected eight points, six boards and three blocks.

Brandywine limited Hazleton to 2-for-11 shooting and forced eight turnovers en route to grabbing a 13-6 lead after one quarter.

Consecutive baskets by James, Velez and Napoleon grew the lead to 21-6 early in the second. The Lions continued to pull away as Velez buried a triple with 2:04 left to swell the margin to 28-9. Hazleton netted seven of the final nine points to get the score to 30-16 by halftime.

Hazleton knocked down two-straight baskets to begin the second half, but that is as close as the visitors would get as Napoleon's layup started a 13-3 surge spanning the next four minutes.

Velez canned her final triple of the night and James and Beatrice Oladeji (Upper Darby, Pa./Penn Wood) followed with buckets as the Lions' lead ballooned past 20 points for the first time early in the fourth and the Lions cruised to their third victory over Hazleton this season.

Brandywine shot 37 percent from the field and held a big edge on the glass, outrebounding Hazleton 57-42. The Lions yielded 25 percent shooting to Hazleton and forced 22 turnovers. Mckenzie Prutsman, the conference's leading scorer, topped the visitors with 22 points, but managed just 6-of-26 shooting against the Brandywine defense.