It'll be Jim Thorpe and Northern Lehigh in the championship of the 29th Annual Slatington Rotary Boys Basketball Tournament once again.
The Olympians used two big quarters to hand Palmerton a 74-66 setback in the first semifinal and the Bulldogs rolled to an easy 69-50 triumph over the Indians in the nightcap.
The two will battle for the title at 8 p.m. after Palmerton and Lehighton meet in the 6:30 consolation tonight.
The Indians built up a 10-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game, but the Bulldogs outscored them 12-2 in the final three minutes to take a 16-12 lead in the first quarter. Lucas Pierce took charge for the Bulldogs scoring eight of his game-high 14 points in the period.
Northern Lehigh didn't let up as it outscored the Indians 22-5 in the second period to take a comfortable 38-17 lead at intermission and never looked back, with both coaches clearing their benches for the final period.
"I was worried about that since we had Saturday and Sunday off," Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller said about the slow start. "Even though we had a little shoot-around this morning it's not like practice. And we certainly didn't take Lehighton lightly.
"We started out in a 2-3 zone and I think our kids were lazy in it. Then once we switched to man-to-man it kind of got us going a little bit."
Caleb Johnson picked up the hot hand after the break as he scored seven of Northern Lehigh's first nine points in the third period and stretched the Bulldogs lead to 55-33 entering the final eight minutes.
"Caleb's an athlete," said Miller. "When I look out on the floor and see him do some things then I realize he's just a sophomore, he's got quite a career ahead of him. Three years from now, he's going to make some college awful happy."
Backing up Pierce was Jordan Waylen with 14. Cordell Wall had 11 and D. J. Rossino 10 for the Indians.
The Olympians scored 22 points in the first and third quarters and kept the Blue Bombers from getting any closer than three points after jumping out to a 13-4 lead.
Dean DeBonifazio scored nine of his game-high 24 points in the first quarter and Darius Clark added eight of his 13 lifting Jim Thorpe out to a 22-15 advantage.
Tyler Svetik had six in the first period for the Bombers and Cody Geist added four.
Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll said afterwards his game plan was to play a triangle-and-two on Palmerton's deadly outside shooters Brett Snyder and Ben Andrews.
"That was the bottom line," Carroll said. "To shut those two guys down. After seeing them on film and reading about them they've been lights out. You want someone else to do some damage. I thought we did a pretty good job overall."
Andrews did manage to hit double figures with 10 points and a pair of treys, while Snyder was held to two points.
It was in the second quarter when Andrews hit his treys and Geist and Jourdan Reinhart added four apiece to cut the Olympians lead to 36-33 at the half.
Jim Thorpe outscored the Bombers 9-2 to start the third quarter and still held on to a 58-51 edge, but Geist fired in 10 of his 19 points to keep Palmerton within striking distance.
In the final stanza, DiBonifazio scored 10 more and the Olympians were able to make enough free throws to counter a 10-point quarter by Svetik.
"The guys were active tonight," said Carroll. "Darius (Clark) and JT (Otto) did a good job inside which we haven't been doing in our earlier games since we've been undersized all year. they know they have to stay out of foul trouble and be active on the glass, keep the ball alive and get it to our guards and P.J. (Johnson) in the open floor."
The Olympians got 19 from Otto to back of DiBonifazio, 13 from Clark and 10 from Dave Ciavarella. Svetik finished with 23 on the night for the Bombers to join Geist and Andrews in double figures.
"We had open shots, we had layups and you have to make those," said Palmerton head coach Mike Snyder. "But their athleticism was a big factor. This was definitely one of our worst games. We were flat-footed and you can't be that against a team like this.
"They took it to us in all aspects. We got outplayed, I got out-coached. It was a whole miserable effort tonight. We hope to make this a learning experience that this doesn't happen again."
DiBonifazio 10-3-3-24, Prontnicki 0-0-0-0, Moranta 0-1-4-1, Ciavarella 4-2-2-10, Otto 7-3-3-19, Brown 0-0-0-0, Clark 4-3-4-13, Johnson 3-1-7-7. TOTALS: 28-13-23-74.
Andrews 4-0-0-10, Svetik 10-0-0-23, Snyder 1-0-0-2, Leaver 2-0-0-4, Saylor 0-0-0-0, Geist 8-3-4-19, Reinhart 3-2-4-8. TOTALS: 28-5-8-66.
Jim Thorpe 22 14 22 16 - 74
Palmerton 15 18 18 15 - 66
Three-pointers; JT - Otto 2, Clark 2, DiBonifazio 1; Palmerton - Svetik 3, Andrews 2.
D. Rossino 3-2-4-10, Kresge 2-0-0-6, Wall 5-1-4-11, Szacska 3-0-1-7, Evans 1-0-0-2, Guyn 2-0-0-4, Scott 0-0-0-0, Gallagher 0-2-2-2, A. Rossino 2-2-3-6, Farano 1-0-0-2, Jones 0-0-0-0. Totals 19-7-14-50.
Glose 3-3-4-9, Waylen 6-0-0-13, Rankin 1-2-4-4, Johnson 4-1-2-9. Pierce 5-4-4-14, Malaska 3-1-2-8, Middaugh 3-0-2-6, Landsberger 0-2-2-2, George 0-0-0-0, Pristash 2-0-0-4, Dibilio 0-0-0-0, Hofmann 0-0-0-0, Egan 0-0-0-0, Eden 0-0-0-0, Shupp 0-0-0-0, Budhoo 0-0-0- 0. Totals: 27-13-20-69.
Lehighton 12 5 16 17 - 50
No. Lehigh 16 22 17 14 - 69
Three-pointers: - Lehighton Kresge 2, D. Rossino 2, Szacska 1; No. Lehigh Waylen 1, Malaska 1.