POTTSVILLE - Tamaqua is a tough team to beat, not only because the Lady Raiders have Amy Zehner. But also because they have other players that can step up when needed.
Friday night at Martz Hall that player was Elissa Streisel. Her 12 first-quarter points helped Tamaqua take control of the game and hold off Mount Carmel for a 51-36 PIAA first round win.
"What makes our team good is that when Amy's struggling we have kids that can pick up the slack," said Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick. "Amy understands that she has four teammates that can finish the ball."
The Raiders advance to Tuesday's second round to face Delone Catholic, a 50-39 winner over Freire Charter.
With Zehner going 1-for-5 in the first quarter, Streisel scored 11 points in the first four minutes and 22 seconds of the game. She scored eight straight at one point, including her second and third three-pointers of the game to put her team up 13-5.
"I knew she was capable of hitting those shots," said Mount Carmel head coach Lisa Verano. "But I didn't know she'd make her first three."
Streisel, a senior guard who averages 9.4 points per game, made four of five shots in the period against Mount Carmel's zone.
"It got our offense started," Streisel said. "It opened things up."
Zehner got hot in the second quarter. She made six of her 10 shots in the period and scored 11 points on a 15-5 run over the final 4:48 of the first half to put Tamaqua ahead 32-16 at halftime.
Despite starting 1-for-6 from the field, Zehner finished with a game-high 22 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. She didn't let the slow start bother her.
"I try not to get down," she said. "My teammates really help me keep my head up. It doesn't matter how many points I score. What matters is that we win."
While the Raiders were looking to pull away in the second half, Mount Carmel, the No. 3 team out of District 4, turned up its defense.
Tamaqua (25-2) had its lead up to 35-16 before committing five turnovers in a three-minute span in the third quarter. But the Raiders also play solid defense and that helped keep Mount Carmel (17-10) from closing the gap too much.
The Tornadoes went on a 9-2 run over six minutes and headed into the fourth withing striking distance, 37-25.
"You knew they weren't going away," Berezwick said.
The Raiders' experience showed in the fourth quarter. A state playoff team last year with all of its players back this season, Tamaqua forced four turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half and built up its lead.
The Raiders opened the quarter with a Cassie Eroh basket, a foul shot by Streisel, a bucket from Allison Updike and then two from Zehner, one of them a three-point play that gave Tamaqua its biggest lead of the game at 47-25 with 4:14 left.
"You can't put a price on how important experience is," Berezwick said. "You could see it in our kids from the time they got off the bus. The way they handled themselves in pregame, the way they did things on the floor, there was no sense of pressure or urgency."
Bolick 1-0-0-2, Demko 0-0-0-0, Palewicz 0-0-0-0, Sinopoli 2-0-0-5, Bernini 4-0-1-8, Farranato 3-3-4-10, Mrozek 0-0-0-0, Ahrensfield 0-1-4-1, Andruscavage 3-4-4-10. TOTALS: 13-8-13-36
Hope 0-0-0-0, C. Streisel 0-1-2-1, Berezwick 0-0-1-0, M. Streisel 0-3-6-3, Fedor 0-0-0-0, E. Streisel 4-1-2-12, Eroh 4-1-2-9, Zehner 10-1-3-22, Chrush 0-0-0-0, Updike 2-0-0-4, Hankins 0-0-0-0, Solt 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-7-16-51.
Mount Carmel 8 8 9 11 - 36
Tamaqua 15 17 5 14 - 51
Three-pointers - M: Sinopoli 1, Farranato 1; T: E. Streisel 3, Zehner 1.