One of life's oldest axioms is that "it's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Case in point...Panther Valley's 50-31 Schuylkill League Division 1 victory last night over Tamaqua.
The Blue Raiders (2-7), marred in a four-game losing steak, came out on fire and took a 15-8 lead after one quarter. However, Panther Valley (8-3) flipped the switch at the start of the second quarter and held Tamaqua to just 16 points the rest of the game, as they outscored the hosts 42-16 over the final 24 minutes.
"At the end of the first quarter, nobody was happy with the defensive effort," stated Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie. "We weren't getting back on defense and we allowed Tamaqua to get in transition."
"Our goal is to make teams play a half-court game and our guys really clamped down for the final three quarters, which was the key to getting the win tonight."
After the Panthers took a 5-4 lead off a Damian Lewis three-pointer four minutes into the game, Tamaqua made its next six shots from the floor to take a seven-point lead into the second quarter. In fact, it may have been Tamaqua's best quarter off basketball all season, as they shot 6-of-9 from the floor, outrebounded a much taller Panther Valley team 5-2 and forced the Panthers into six first-quarter turnovers.
"I was happy with the way we defended their big guys, especially early on," said Tamaqua head coach Jay Daubert. "We came out, moved the ball and hit shots in the first quarter. After that, we turned the ball over and became a little more stagnant."
"The bottom line is that we didn't do the same things over the final three quarters that we did in the first quarter and I'm really not sure why."
The Panthers turned momentum in their favor by scoring the first 10 points of the second quarter, including six by Logan Stano to take an 18-15 lead.
Tamaqua closed the deficit to 23-22 at the half, but Panther Valley struck right back with consecutive three-pointers (by Zach Stano and Joe Revell) to open the second half.
After the break, the Panthers defense held the Raiders to just 4-of-16 shooting, while forcing nine second-half turnovers.
"We didn't play smart basketball in the second half," added Daubert. "We stopped moving and we turned the ball over unnecessarily. We have nobody to blame but ourselves."
For Panther Valley, Damian Lewis scored a game-high 13 points, while Logan Stano and Brock Mitchell added 11 and 10 points respectively.
"Damian's game was huge for us tonight," added Crampsie. "While Tamaqua's main concern was with Logan and Brock, Damian was able to get in there and do some nice things. He got after the boards and had some nice putbacks. He was a big factor in tonight's win."
For Tamaqua, Michael Taylor and Michael Gurcsik led the way with nine points apiece.
The Panthers shot 20-for-45 from the floor, while for-45 from the floor while Tamaqua made 13 of its 38 attempts. Panther Valley outrebounded the Raiders 30-22, and won the turnover battle (19-16).
In the JV contest, the Raiders were a 47-41 winner behind Tyler Krell's 10 points. Nate Mathewson scored 22 points for the Panthers in the loss.
"Overall, I was happy with the effort," concluded Crampsie. "The guys didn't panic after a slow start. They concentrated on locking down on defense and rotating better. They did a fantastic job of finishing the game strong."
Stanko 2-0-0-5, Ogozalek 1-0-0-2, Mathewson 0-0-0-0, Revell 2-0-0-6, Picht 1-0-0-3, Lewis 6-0-0-13, Romanchik 0-0-0-0, Mitchell 4-2-4-10, Ahner 0-0-0-0, Stano 4-3-5-11. TOTALS: 20-5-9-50.
Streisel 3-0-0-6, Fegley 0-0-0-0, Bumbulsky 1-1-2-3, Bennett 1-0-0-2, Lakitsky 0-0-0-0, Rudy 0-0-0-0, Taylor 3-1-2-9, Ansbach 0-0-0-0, Gurcsik 4-1-2-9, Reinhardt 1-0-0-2, Hubosky 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-3-6-31.
Panther Vy. 8 15 13 14 - 50
Tamaqua 15 7 4 5 - 31
Three-Pointers: Panther Valley - Revell 2, Stanko 1, Picht 1, Lewis 1; Tamaqua - Taylor 2.