Major surgery just over a week before the season opener couldn't slow down Amy Zehner. And Northwestern's defense was no obstacle either as the Tamaqua junior scored 19 points in her team's 61-30 season opening win Saturday afternoon in New Tripoli.

"You've got to thank Amy for wanting to come back," said Tamqua head coach Joe Berezwick. "She didn't miss a beat."

Zehner, last year's TIMES NEWS Player of the Year, was expected to miss at least the early part of the season when she needed an emergency appendectomy on the morning of Wedneday, December 2. Five days later her doctor, Michael Martinez at Gnaden Huetten Hospital in Lehighton, cleared her to return to practice on Tuesday, Dec. 8. She played in a scrimmage the next day and by the opener was feeling nearly 100 percent.

"I can't stand not playing and going to practice and just watching," said Zehner. "I can't do that. I was so excited to come back."

Tamaqua jumped out a quick lead against Northwestern. The Lady Raiders forced 10 first-quarter turnovers and got two 3-pointers from Elissa Streisel to go up 17-4 after eight minutes.

Another nine Northwestern turnovers in the second quarter put Tamqua ahead 33-13 at halftime.

Zehner, who missed her first four shots, made five or her next eight for eight points at halftime to lead a balanced first-half scoring effort. Zehner hit another five of six shots in the third quarter to lead all scorers.

"She'll be the best player we'll see all year," said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. "Even if you do a good job on Zehner, they have other girls who can make shots. They're just a very good team."

"Amy just plays the complete game," Berezwick said. "You just don't look at the 19 points. You look at everything else she does out there. It goes beyond the 19 points - the rebounding, the defense, her ability to block shots."

Zehner's supporting cast played a big part in the win. Streisel finished the game with nine points and six assists. Kayla Hope, who spearheads her team's pressure defense, contributed 11 points and five steals.

The defending District 11 champion Lady Raiders have much of last year's team back and are expecting big things this season. A big win in their season opener was just the start they were looking for.

"Our goal was to pick up from where we did last year," Zehner said. "I think we did a good job of doing that. We definitely have some big goals but we're just taking it one game at a time."

Northwestern freshman Sara Jones scored a team-high 12 points in the loss.

Tamaqua also won the JV game, 41-33, behind 15 points from Maria Streisel. For Northwestern, Kaleen Suter scored a team-high 10 points.

TAMAQUA

Hope 5-0-1-11, C. Streisel 1-0-0-2, Berezwick 2-0-0-4, M. Streisel 0-0-0-1, E. Streisel 3-0-0-9, Eroh 3-0-0-7, Fedor 1-0-0-2, Zehner 9-0-1-19, Chrush 0-1-2-1, Updike 1-2-2-4, Hankins 1-0-0-2, Solt 0-0-0-0. TOTALSL 26-3-8-61.

NORTHWESTERN

Gulick 1-0-0-2, Landrigan 0-0-0-0, Groller 1-0-0-2, Jones 6-0-0-12, Suter 0-1-2-1, MacLaughlin 0-0-0-0, L. Gimbel 1-1-2-4, A. Gimbel 0-0-0-0, Everett 2-0-1-4, Hill 2-1-2-5. TOTALS: 13-3-7-30.

Tamaqua 17 16 19 9 - 61

Northwestern 4 9 6 11 - 30

Three-pointers - T: E. Streisel 3, Hope, Eroh, Zehner; NW: L. Gimbel.