With back to back losses to Pottsville and Blue Mountain over the weekend, Jim Thorpe saw its Schuylkill Division I title hopes vanish and a spot in the the league playoffs fall into jeopardy.
Given another shot at Blue Mountain, the Olympians didn't waste it.
Paced by a powerful performance from its inside game, Thorpe rolled past the Eagles for a 67-48 victory Monday in the Schuylkill wild card tiebreaker game at the Tamaqua Area Athletic Center.
With the win, the Olympians (16-6) earned a berth in the Schuylkill semifinals Wednesday and will face Division 3 champion Marian in the 6 p.m. opener at Pottsville's Martz Hall.
Pottsville, the Division 1 champ, will take on Division 2 winner Williams Valley at 7:30 p.m.
Thorpe had split its two previous meetings with Blue Mountain, but the Eagles' 47-42 win Sunday gave both teams 8-4 league records and necessitated the tiebreaker game.
The Olympians were leading in the third quarter Sunday before Blue Mountain rallied to pull out the triumph. A horrendous 3 for 13 effort from the foul line didn't help Thorpe's chances.
In Monday's rubber game, Thorpe never trailed, but the pesky Eagles (13-10) were within 26-20 at the half.
Blue Mountain was down 35-30 on a Matt Garrity putback with 3:53 left in the third quarter when the Olympians delivered the knockout punch with a 17-4 run, reeling off 13 consecutive points to widen the gap to 52-34.
Corey Cinicola, who topped Thorpe with 19 points, led the charge during that spree with eight points, while Sam Lux added a pair of buckets, Rashid Epps hit a pair from the line and Darius Clark struck for a three-point play inside.
The surge was indicative of the intensity of the Oympians, who outshot (24 for 55 compared to the Eagles 19 for 54) and outrebounded (41-30) Blue Mountain. Thorpe's foul shooting (17 for 22) was also a notch above its Sunday showing.
"We played two quality teams back to back and for whatever reason, we just didn't get it done," said Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll. "I lost sleep over our foul shooting and missed layups.Today we had a turnaround in our foul shots and the kids kept focused.
the kids kept focused.
"We moved the ball around well. Corey knows it's his senior year, and it was do or die. One of our goals is to get back to the Schuylkill playoffs. Corey is a vocal leader, and he put us on his back today."
"I don't usually take the ball to the basket as much, but it was there," related Cinicola. "I felt I could take it in there and get it to Rashid if they collapsed on me."
Epps enjoyed another huge game in the paint, posting a double-double (11 points, 15 rebounds) during the first half before finishing with 17 points and 18 caroms. Lux chipped in with 14 points.
Thorpe also got some help from its reserves, as it played without starters Dean DiBonifazio (appendectomy) and P.J. Johnson (sprained finger). Clark pumped in eight points, while Jaquan Richardson and J.T.Otto added valuable minutes.
Matt Maloney (15 points), Mark Garrity (12) and Jake Cryts (10) each hit double figures for the Eagles.
Thorpe will now gear up for Marian on Wednesday after winning both prior meetings vs. the Colts this season.
"It's never easy to play a team for the third time," said Carroll. "Mick (Stefanek) does an awesome job with Marian. We have to come out with the same defensive intensity against them that we did two weeks ago."
Yost 0-0-0-0, Maloney 4-4-4-15, Spotts 1-0-0-3, Hartranft 2-0-0-4, LaScala 1-0-0-2, Mark Garrity 6-0-15-12, Cryts 4-1-1-10, Tobash 1-0-0-2, O'Brien 0-0-0-0, Rhody 0-0-0-0, Matt Garrity 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-5-10-48.
Mickens 0-0-0-0, Moranta 0-0-0-0, Moore 0-0-0-0, Sam Lux 5-4-4-14, Rashid Epps 7-3-6-17, Ciavarella 1-0-0-2, Otto 1-0-0-3, Richardson 0-4-6-4, Cory Cinicola 7-5-5-19, Clark 3-1-1-8. TOTALS: 24-17-22-67.
Blue Mountain 8 12 12 16 - 48
Jim Thorpe 12 14 15 26 - 67
Three-point goals: BM-Maloney 3, Spotts 1, Cryts 1; JT-Otto 1, Clark 1.