For the first quarter and a half, it seemed as if neither Jim Thorpe nor Palmerton wanted to win their Slatington Rotary Tournament first-round match-up.
The Olympians picked up their play heading into halftime and opened a 15-point lead in the third quarter. Down, but not out, the Bombers fought back and drew to within one with two minutes to go. Jim Thorpe responded with a six-point spurt to pull away from Palmerton for a 54-48 victory.
"Offensively, the first half was very sloppy," said Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll. "We were rushing things and settling for one pass and a shot. To our credit, I thought our defense was there except for maybe two quick three-pointers at the end of the half. The effort was there, but the execution was just horrendous."
Play was extremely sloppy to begin the game as both teams turned the ball over numerous times in the open court. The quarter ended with Jim Thorpe ahead, 7-6.
The Olympians finally picked up their defensive pressure in the second quarter. PJ Johnson, JaQuan Brown and Darius Clark all got into the passing lanes and managed to ignite a Thorpe spurt that pushed the lead to double digits.
The Bombers hit two late triples to close the gap to seven before the break. Much like Carroll, Palmerton coach Mick Stefanek wasn't happy with the opening half.
"The first half was painful to watch," said Stefanek. "I told the kids that it was tough watching us play the way we did because we are a better team than that. It was turnovers and missed layups and just a lot of breakdowns. We turned things around in the second half, but the first half was definitely hard to watch."
Jim Thorpe (5-2) stretched its lead to 11 by the end of the third quarter, but Palmerton had another run left.
Brett Snyder nailed a triple and then converted on a three-point play on the next possession to draw the Bombers to within three with 2:40 to go. Teammate Kyle Ruch followed with a layup to make it a one-point game with two minutes left.
Carroll called a timeout in hopes of regrouping his Olympians. The move paid off, as Brown slashed for consecutive buckets. Dane Ciavarella then intercepted a pass and went the length of the court for the lay in to put the game out of reach.
"I was a little nervous because we were starting to second guess ourselves in the huddle," said Carroll. "I thought we panicked down the stretch a little bit and Palmerton sensed that they could pull out the win. We almost gave it away."
Jim Thorpe advances to play Northern Lehigh in the championship game tonight.
Palmerton (1-5) will face Lehighton in the consolation game at 6:30.
"Jim Thorpe found a way to win tonight and we didn't, said Stefanek. " That is something we are trying to develop in this program – that mentality to win these types of games and we have yet to do it.
"But I am going to keep coaching and we are going to keep playing and we hope to get this straightened out in the very near future."
Snyder 4-1-1-10, Ruch 3-0-0-6, Geist 8-1-2-18, Svetik 4-0-0-11, Leon 0-0-0-0, Horvath 1-0-0-3, Leaver 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-2-3-48.
Moore 0-0-0-0, Lynch 1-0-2-2, Ciavarella 4-0-0-8, Freeman 0-0-0-0, Brown 8-1-2-18, Clark 4-4-4-12, Johnson 5-1-2-12, Ennis 1-0-0-2, Baombolia 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-6-10-54.
Palmerton 6 12 11 19 - 48
Jim Thorpe 7 18 15 14 - 54
Three-Pointers: P – Svetik 3, Snyder 1, Geist 1, Horvath 1; JT – Brown 1, Johnson 1.