EAST STROUDSBURG - Playing against an undefeated league opponent, most people figured the Lehighton girls' basketball team didn't stand a chance against East Stroudsburg South on Tuesday night.
However, the Mountain Valley Conference semi-final proved to be quite the contrary.
Lehighton gave East Stroudsburg South (19-3, 12-0) all it could handle for three quarters, but couldn't keep up in the fourth. The Indians went nearly six minutes between buckets while the Cavaliers went on a run and increased their lead. In the end it was the Cavs coming away with the 40-34 victory. They will play Pocono Mountain West in the final last this week.
"That stretch in the fourth quarter was one of the biggest differences in the game in addition to the turnovers," said Lehighton head coach Tony Thomas. "The amount of turnovers we had in the beginning of the game was absolutely pathetic.
"We also failed to box out, which has been our staple all year. It hurt us and it will continue to hurt us until we start doing it. East Stroudsburg South got way too many second opportunities."
Lehighton played the game it needed to early on, as it slowed the game down and took time off the clock with every possession. In fact the Indians used one minute and 22 seconds on their first possession, but lost the ball and got called for a back-court violation.
Still, the Indians continued to stick to their game-plan and led 11-6 after one quarter.
Lehighton played excellent defense on South's leading scorer, Carly Gallagher. Gallagher, who was averaging 21 points-per-game coming into Tuesday's contest, was 0-for-4 from the field in the first eight minutes.
"It was all about ball possession," said Thomas. "If they don't have the ball they can't score. The idea behind it was to take advantage of whatever they gave us. They were going to sit in their zone and we were going to work it around until a good shot opened up.
"We knew that it would work and it did. I thought we played very patiently, but in the second quarter we gave up the momentum and it hurt us."
Thanks to a handful of sloppy turnovers, the Cavaliers went on a 6-0 run to open the second quarter. Gallagher finally got on the board at the 6:50 mark on a breakaway lay-up. She would have two of those in the quarter and finished the half just 2-for-9. She finished the game 3-of-15.
East Stroudsburg South made seven shots in the quarter. Six of those seven shots were either lay-ups or put-backs. That, coupled with 12 first-half turnovers, gave South a two-point lead heading into the break.
The Cavaliers were a team of runs the rest of the way. They opened the third quarter on a 5-0 run and then went on a 6-0 run early in the fourth after the Indians tied the game at 31 on a Vanessa Rimbey jumper.
Rimbey's jumper on the Indians' first possession of the final quarter tied the game, but it was all downhill from there. Lehighton went on to go 0-for-7 from the field up until the 1:45 mark when it made only its second bucket of the quarter. By then it was all but over.
Jordyn Homyak finished with a game-high 14 points.
In order to qualify for the District 11 playoffs, Lehighton (9-12, 5-7) will now have to defeat both Tamaqua and Tri-Valley.
"It's going to be very difficult," admitted Thomas. "We have to play one of the top team's in the Schuylkill League in Tamaqua. Tri-Valley is another team that won its division. Between those two teams it is going to be tough, but you have to fight. Anything worth anything in life is worth fighting for."
Homyak 6-1-3-14, McCullion 0-0-0-0, Smith 1-0-0-2, Schweizer 1-0-0-2, Rimbey 5-0-0-10, White 1-2-4-4, Teno 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 15-3-7-34.
EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH
Kessel 4-0-0-8, Toleno 5-0-0-10, Gallagher 3-5-6-11, Steakin 1-0-1-2, Smith 4-1-2-9. TOTALS: 17-6-9-40.
Lehighton 11 7 11 5 - 34
ES South 6 14 11 9 - 40
Three-Pointers: L - Homyak; ES - None.