Once it gets going, Jim Thorpe's inside game is tough to stop.
The trio of Rashid Epps, Sam Lux and Corey Cinicola was clicking on all cylinders in the Olympians' Schuylkill League Division I contest Friday night at Tamaqua.
Surprisingly, the host Blue Raiders kept pace much of the game, lighting up the scoreboard themselves.
The Olympians shrugged off the hot Raider shooting and continued their damage in the paint, pulling away for a 90-76 victory.
The win enabled Thorpe (11-3 overall) to stay in a first place tie with North Schuylkill atop the Division I standings, both with 6-1 league marks. The Spartans pulled out a 44-40 overtime triumph at Pine Grove.
The teams took turns scorching the nets, with both hitting for season highs in points.
The Olympians connected on 35 of 62 shots (56 percent) and the Raiders clicked at 27 for 58 from the floor (46.5 percent). The squads combined to shoot a lofty 29 for 34 (85.2 percent) from the charity stripe.
It looked like Thorpe would run away and hide early, reeling off 13 straight points in building a 27-13 bulge after one quarter.
The Olympians got perimeter production during the run, with guard Dean DiBonifazo hitting for eight points, including two treys, and P.J. Johnson for five points.
Tamaqua (2-10, 0-7), which lost its seventh straight, got a tough break when it lost starting guard Spencer Bennett ,who collided with Cinicola and was taken for medical treatment for gashes on his face.
The Raiders regrouped for a second quarter explosion, singing the cords for 31 points and closing within 49-44 at the half.
Raiders guard Michael Taylor was unconcious in the period, connecting for 18 of his 25 first half points. Taylor finished with a season-high 31 points, including six triples.
"Give Tamaqua credit. They were on fire, especially Mr. Taylor, who was incredible in the first half," said Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll. "We kept trying to switch defenses, and I think I confused our guys with it, because we kept leaving them open."
When Jake Fegley, who stepped for Bennett, hit a triple at the 7:14 mark of the third, Tamaqua was down by just a point at 51-50.
Thorpe kept pounding it inside, hitting 8 of 9 shots to push it back out to 67-58 after three. Cinicola connected for 10 points in the stanza while Epps and Lux each had a pair of hoops.
"Once we finally settled on our staple man defense, we got our transition game going, and the ball movement on our part was phenomenal," praised Carroll.
When the Olympians did miss, Epps was there to clean up, finishing with 17 rebounds, nine on the offensive boards, to go with his team-high 25 points, nine of which came in the final quarter.
"Epps just kills us off the glass," said Tamaqua coach Jay Daubert, whose Raiders were outrebounded 49-24. "A lot of his points come off the boards. He's very athletic and tough to stop."
Lux finished with 21 points and Cinicola collected 18.
Mike Streisel rimmed 14 points and Anthony Bumbulsky 12 for the Raiders.
"I hope we can keep up the intensity from tonight, because we have some winnable games if we can play with the same attitude and energy," noted Daubert.
Jim Thorpe was a 55-42 winner in the JV game. Dean Ciavarella (19 points), J.T. Otto (14) and Sean Green (10) hit double digits for Thorpe, while Matthew Kurek tallied 19 to top Tamaqua.
DiBonifazio 2-3-4-9, Richardson 2-4-4-8, Lux 9-3-4-21, Epps 11-3-4-25, Cinicola 7-4-4-18, Johnson 4-0-0-9. TOTALS: 35-17-20-90.
Streisel 4-4-4-14, Fegley 2-0-0-6, Bumbulsky 5-2-2-12, Bennett 0-0-0-0, Lakitsky 2-0-0-4, Rudy 0-0-0-0, Taylor 12-1-2-31, Gurcsik 2-5-6-9. TOTALS: 27-12-14-76.
Jim Thorpe 27 22 18 23 - 90
Tamaqua 13 31 14 18 - 76
Three-pointers: JT-DiBonifazio 2, Johnson 1; T-Taylor 6, Streisel 2, Fegley 2.