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H.S. Girls Basketball: Hazleton Area routs Lake-Lehman for WVC title

Feb. 18—HAZLE TWP. — The first few minutes were shaky for Hazleton Area on Saturday. Lake-Lehman was breaking the Cougars' press and scoring.

Then Hazleton Area changed the script the way it wanted to — with relentless pressure leading to turnovers and baskets.

The Cougars went on a 15-point run — the last eight coming on steals — as they pulled away for a 64-33 win over three-time defending champion Lehman in the Wyoming Valley Conference girls basketball tournament championship game.

Hazleton Area (21-4) won the WVC title for the first time. The Cougars lost in the inaugural championship game in 2019 and again in 2020. They lost to Lehman in last year's semifinals.

"In my first two years, the first year we didn't make it and last year we fell short in the playoff game to get here," Hazleton Area junior Sophia Shults said. "But this team really came together to win the first Wyoming Valley Conference championship for Hazleton Area, and it's such a great experience."

Lehman (15-9) took a 9-3 lead as the Black Knights sifted through Hazleton Area's press with Ella Wilson scoring six points.

Then came the avalanche of Lehman turnovers. Alexis Reimold and Kaitlyn Bindas converted steals into layups to end the first quarter, giving Hazleton Area a 15-9 lead.

Bindas' layup and 3-pointer to start the second quarter also came via turnovers. So did the final basket of the first half, an inside bucket by Olivia Williams, for a 39-17 lead.

"The first few minutes were fine," Lehman coach Charlie Lavan said. "Then it seemed like the wheels came off. We didn't get back in D, we got lazy inside on defense. But (Hazleton Area) played well. They started hitting their shots."

Bindas especially. The sharp-shooting freshman finished with 22 points — five over her WVC average — and connected on four 3-pointers. Sophia Benyo had a strong third quarter as Hazleton Area reached the 30-point mercy rule with 3:15 left in the period.

"It's a really good feeling," Bindas said. "We all play as a team and don't fail to do that. We all always come together and never let anything affect us. We keep shooting and don't let anything affect us."

Lehman was wary of Hazleton Area defensive pressure, having experienced it in a 56-32 season-opening loss at Hazleton Area's Tip-Off Tournament. The Black Knights hoped they were better equipped over two months later and they were briefly.

"There's a commutative effect," Hazleton Area coach Joe Gavio said. "Unbeknownst to me, we're down 9-3. But they were motivated. There was something different here. Then we went on a 17-0 run (actually 15-0). We moved the ball nice. We kept doing what we do."

Both teams will play this coming week in the district playoffs. Lehman will travel to Elk Lake on Tuesday for a District 2 Class 3A quarterfinal game. Hazleton Area will be home Thursday against either Delaware Valley or Wilkes-Barre Area in a D2/4-6A semifinal game.

WVC Girls Championship

Hazleton Area 64, Lake-Lehman 43

LAKE-LEHMAN (33) — Delcia Biscotto 2 0-0 5, Brenna Hunt 3 2-2 8, Ella Wilson 4 7-7 16, Molly Jenkins 0 0-0 0, Olivia Oliver 0 0-0 0, Kathryn Morgan 0 2-4 2, Gracie James 0 0-0 0, Morgan Breslford 1 0-0 2, Olivia Corcoran 0 0-0 0, Hannah Chipego 0 0-0 0, Hayley Wallace 0 0-0 0, Gianna DeCesaris 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 11-13 33.

HAZLETON AREA (64) — Sophia Benyo 6 0-0 12, Kaitlyn Bindas 9 0-0 22, Kayla Lagowy 2 0-0 4, Alexis Reimold 2 0-0 4, Sophia Shults 5 1-1 12, Olivia Williams 3 0-0 6, Mariah Marolo 0 0-0 0, Jayla Eberts 0 0-0 0, Hailey Yost 0 0-0 0, Evelyn Shults 0 0-0 0, Melina Gregory 0 0-0 0, Ella Radice 0 0-0 0, Miranda Chupela 1 0-0 2, Julianna Silva 0 0-0 0, Sofia Rodgers 1 0-0 2, Hannah Matyas 0 0-0 0, Leah Meyers 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 1-1 64.

Lake-Lehman'9'8'14'2 — 33

Hazleton Area'15'24'18'7 — 64

Three-point goals — LL 2 (Biscotto, Wilson). HA 5 (Bindas 4. S.Shults).