Losing in the state playoffs can be emotionally devastating for any team in any sport.
The tournament dictates that all but one team will sooner-or-later have its heart broken. While the ratio of heartache-to-elation is weighted heavily to the left, it is still a road worth traveling.
The Tamaqua girls' basketball team ventured down the 'state road' last year and ended up crashing in the second round when it ran into Delone Catholic. Now, a year later, the Lady Raiders are looking to dish out a little pay-back.
Following in the same foot-steps as it did a year ago, Delone Catholic knocked off Freire Charter in the opening round and will again face Tamaqua in round two. Last year the Squirettes defeated the Raiders 44-40 on their way to the semi-finals. As one would expect, the loss is still fresh in the Raiders' minds.
"Does it add an incentive to winning this game?" said Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick. "It sure does. We were winning with about a minute and a half to go and let it slip away. We handled their pressure for nearly three quarters. It ended up being the other eight-to-nine minutes that cost us the game."
Last year the Raiders were outscored 23-6 in the second quarter due in large part to a 20-0 Squirette run. Tamaqua battled back through the course of the game and held a four-point lead with about 1:40 to go. Unfortunately, a game-ending 8-0 run by Delone Catholic doomed the locals.
"(Delone Catholic's) relentless pressure on defense led to both of those runs," recalled Berezwick. "We turned the ball over time after time and they struck so quickly. They went on that 20-point run in about three-and-a-half minutes.
"If we are to have any success this time around, we will need to handle their pressure better. Minimizing our mistakes is the absolute key to winning this game. I know we will turn it over at some point, but we can't let it escalate. We can't have those back-to-back-to-back turnovers."
Tuesday's contest will be quite the rematch since most of last year's contestants have returned for their respective teams. Both of the Delone's top two scorers from last year, sophomore Sierra Moore and senior Courtney Riggs, are backing leading the team in 2009-10.
As Moore goes, so do the Squirettes. The 5-11 guard recorded a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) in her first-round match-up with Freire. Riggs, a 5-8 guard/forward, chipped in with eight.
Emily Gerlach (zero points), Chelsea Hoffman (zero points) and Maria Photiades (five points) were the other three starters for Delone in its last game. While they didn't put up a lot of points, all three have big-game experience as both were on the varsity team last season.
Stormie Hibshman, a 6-1 sophomore, will be the wild card. Hibshman started for the Squirettes earlier in the year, but then came off the bench after she missed a few games with an illness. Although she came off the bench again on Friday, Hibshman is definitely capable of starting. She scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards in round one.
As for the Raiders, both of their leading scorers from last year's game (Elissa Streisel and Amy Zehner) are back and hoping for a better outcome. However, Kayla Hope and Megan Berezwick were the only other girls to see the floor.
Delone Catholic captured three consecutive state titles from 2003 to 2005 and had become a perennial power-house. Meanwhile, Tamaqua is looking to start a legacy of its own.
"The girls are very positive and up-beat," said Berezwick. "Every game right now is big and they just keep getting bigger. At this very moment, this is the most important game of the year.
"We are excited to be where we are at. We know it can end at any moment, but if we stick to our game-plan then I think we have a good chance of advancing."