With three starters under six-feet and no one on the roster taller than 6-foot-3, Jim Thorpe isn't a team that is normally going to make a living pounding the ball inside.
Tuesday night was an exception.
The Olympians took advantage of a smaller Panther Valley squad, which was forced to go with a four guard line-up most of the night, to post a 54-45 Schuylkill League basketball victory.
It was a huge turnaround from when the two teams met less than two weeks ago in the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament. In that game, the Panthers dominated the interior and posted an 18-point victory.
The obvious difference last night was Panther Valley was playing without 6-5 center Brock Mitchell, who is lost for the season after suffering a non-basketball related injury.
"We made better decisions against their 1-3-1 zone tonight," said Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll. "I thought we did a nice job making entry passes to our players on the blocks.
"With Mitchell out of the line-up for them, we wanted to focus on attacking them inside. It's going to be one of the few times this season we have a size edge on the team we're playing and I thought we did a nice job of taking advantage of it."
In the earlier meeting, Panther Valley's starting front court outscored Jim Thorpe's, 37-13. This time, the Olympians' turned that around as they enjoyed a 37-17 edge among the starting front line players.
Leading the way in the paint for Thorpe was JT Otto, who scored 18 points. Dane Ciavarella got loose inside for 11 points while Darius Clark slashed through the defense for eight points.
"Obviously nobody is going to step in and give us the 16 points and 15 rebounds a game that we were getting from Brock," said Panther Valley coach Pat Crampsie. "So we are going to need five or six guys to step up and give us a couple extra points and rebounds.
"We are also going to have to realize that we need to play a different style. We need to slow the game down, reduce possessions, and work for better shots. We didn't do that tonight."
The Panthers did have some success keeping the score down in the first half as they trailed just 24-21 at the break.
But behind Ciavarella and Otto, the Olympians opened the second half with a 10-0 run to take control.
"The second quarter was played at Panther Valley's pace," said Carroll. "We talked to our kids at halftime about picking up the tempo and playing with a little more energy.
"I thought we did that to start the third quarter. We were able to get some steals and then fill the lanes and get to the basket for easy points."
Trailing 34-21 midway through the third quarter, Panther Valley made several runs, but was never able to get the margin under six points.
Olympian point guard Dean DiBonifazio made sure of that by hitting five of six foul shots and scoring eight fourth quarter points. DiBonifazio finished the game with 17 points.
"Offensively, we really struggled with our shooting," said Crampsie. "We have to realize that just because it's an open shot, doesn't mean it's a good shot."
The Panthers shot just 16-for-60 from the floor (27 percent) and 2-for-22 from three-point range (9 percent).
Zach Stanko and Nate Mathewson led Panther Valley with 19 and 14 points respectively.
Jim Thorpe improves to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the league. The Panthers fall to 2-3 and 0-1.
Hadesty 1-0-0-2, Stanko 7-3-6-19, McArdle 0-1-2-1, Ogozalek 1-2-2-4, Revell 1-0-2-2, Kerschner 1-1-2-3, Mathewson 5-4-5-14. TOTALS: 16-11-19-45.
DiBonifazio 5-5-6-17, Pronticki 0-0-0-0, Moranta 0-0-0-0, Moore 0-0-0-0, Munoz 0-0-0-0, Ciavarella 5-1-2-11, Otto 6-4-10-19, Clark 3-2-3-8, Johnson 0-0-1-0. TOTALS:19-12-22-54.
Panther Vy. 6 15 7 17 - 45
Jim Thorpe 13 11 10 20 - 54
Three-pointers: PV – Stanko 2. JT – DiBonifazio 2, Otto 2.