The annual Slatington Rotary Tournament title game has the makings of one of being one of the best in their 28-year history.
The Jim Thorpe Olympians, led by standout Rashid Epps, took
control of their game against Palmerton in the second period and cruised
to a 73-43 win on Monday nigt. Host Northern Lehigh methodically disposed of Lehighton 67-46 in the nightcap.
Northern Lehigh (5-2) will face undefeated Jim Thorpe in the championship game immediately following the Palmerton-Lehighton consolation matchup that has a 6:30 tip-off.
Rashid Epps came off the bench to give his team a shot in the arm to overcome a sluggish start to down a feisty Blue Bomber team.
Epps entered the game late in the first quarter and his Olympians down 8-2. He scored a quick five points, including a three point play in the waning seconds of the period to give Jim Thorpe the lead for good, 9-8.
"We hustled and played well," Bomber coach Mike Snyder said. "We went up 8-2 and then they put Epps in and he had 21 of their 31 points at half time. He's just that good."
The towering center took over the game. Epps scored 14-second quarter points highlighted by one handed dunk. Halfway through the second quarter, the Olympians held a 23-14 advantage.
"We were a little sluggish," Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll said. "It took us a little time to get our feet moving. Once we did, that was the key."
Jaquan Richardson's three pointer at the buzzer put Jim Thorpe up 31-20 at half.
Palmerton pounded the ball down low to Tyler Kravetz who scored the Bombers first eight points. He was forced to the bench with two first period scores and that left the Bombers vulnerable.
The guard play clamped down on the passing lanes and the press after a basket created turnover after turnover to give the Olympians easy scoring opportunities..
"We knew they would struggle handling the ball," Carroll said. "We really wanted to pressure them and trap them all over the floor and I think we did that."
Kravetz finished with a team high 19 points and 16 rebounds.
"He'll give you 100 percent every game," Snyder said of Kravetz, "He hustles the entire game for us."
The Bulldogs set up another potential battle with Jim Thorpe with their win. The inside game of Nick Pappas (12 pts) and Evan Biegley (10 pts) pressured the Indians all-night and Jordan Waylen scored all 11 of his points in the first half in the victory.
The Indians had no answer to the methodical Bulldog offense that raced out to a 9-0 lead to start the game. The lead grew to a ten point lead before the Indians fought back with a three pointer by J.T. Keer and a basket by D.J. Rossino to cut the lead to 17-12 at the end of the first frame.
That is when the sky caved in for the Indians. The Bulldog back court took control of the game with Bobby Hahn drilling two treys and Waylen sinking a couple of baskets to pus the lead to 29-12 with four minutes left In the half.
"They played well but they played well within themselves," Bulldog coach Rich Oertner said of his guards. "They did what they could do and took what the other team gave us."
Lehighton's Ty Hill (10 points) broke the run with a basket that cut into the lead but the Bulldogs were too tough. Northern Lehigh outscored the Indians 24-3 in the frame to push the lead to 41-15 at half.
In the second half, the Bulldogs executed that game plan with Pappas scoring six straight points at the beginning of the third quarter to push the lead further as head coach Rich Oertner emptied his bench.
"We systematically went out and did what we were supposed to do," Bulldog coach Rich Oertner said. "Our goal was to go out and pound it down in the middle because we were taller than them."
D.J. Rossino dumped in 11 points and Heath Markley hit three from beyond the arc for the Indians.
"Tomorrow's going to be a good game," Oertner said. "We match up with them and they match up with us. That last three times we played them it was a very close game. I would expect tomorrow to be no different."
Carroll is impressed with Oertner's Bulldog squad.
"Northern Lehigh is the cream of the crop in the District and Colonial
League," he said. "We need to bring the same intensity and the same defensive effort to win the Rotary Tournament."
"They are definitely quicker than us," Oertner said. "We are going to have to beat them with our cognitive skills rather than our athletic skills."
DiBonifazio 2-0-0-6, Lux 3-0-0-6, Epps 12-5-10-29, Cinicola 4-2-6-10, Johnson 3-4-5-10, Green 1-0-0-3, Mickens 0-0-0-0, Moranta 0-0-0-0, Moore 0-0-0-0, Ciavarella 0-0-0-0, Otto 0-0-0-0, Richardson 1-0-0-3, Clark 1-0-0-2, Brown 0-0-0-0. Totals: 29-11-22-73.
Tyahla 0-0-0-0, Furry 1-2-2-4, Haas 2-1-2-5, Freed 2-0-1-7, Marcin 4-0-0-8, Kravetz 9-1-3-19, Reinhart 0-0-0-0, Kleintop 0-0-0-0, Eaton 0-0-0-0, Geist 0-0-0-0; Totals: 19-4-7-43
Jim Thorpe 9 22 25 17 - 73
Palmerton 8 12 13 10 - 43
Three Pointers: JT – DiBonafazio 2, Green 1, Otto 1; P – Freed 1.
Hill 5-0-0-10, Keer 1-4-4-7, Rossino 4-2-2-11, Markley 3-0-0-9, Szacska 1-0-0-3, Kresge 2-0-0-5, Matika 0-1-4-1, Evans 0-0-0-0, Guin 0-0-0-0, Edgar 0-0-0-0, Scott 0-0-0-0. Totals 16-7-10-46.
Seremula 2-0-0-4, Hahn 2-1-2-7, Waylen 4-3-4-11, Biegley 5-0-2-10, Pappas 6-0-0-12, Everhart 0-0-1-1, Glose 2-1-2-5, Malaska 2-1-2-5, Pierce 3-0-0-6, Johnson 2-0-0-4, Bender 0-0-0-0, George 1-0-0-2, Pristash 0-0-0-0, Rankin 0-0-0-0, Hofmann 0-0-0-0. Totals 29-7-14-67.
Lehighton 12 3 12 19 - 46
No. Lehigh 17 24 17 9 - 67
Three-pointers: Lehighton - Markley 3, Keer 1, Szacska 1, Rossino 1. NL - Hahn 2.