POTTSVILLE - Maria Streisel picked an opportune time to step up her offensive game.
The sophomore guard, who averages 4.7 points per game, scored a career high 14 points, including six in the fourth quarter, to boost Tamaqua in its Schuylkill League semifinal barnburner with Nativity.
After leading most of the game and watching the gritty Golden Girls fight back to deadlock the score with 4:40 left, the Lady Raiders regrouped and pulled out a 67-61 victory Wednesday night at Martz Hall.
Tamaqua, the Division 1 champion, remained undefeated at 23-0 and will defend its Schuylkill League title Friday night against Division 2 champ Tri-Valley, a 38-32 winner over Pine Grove in the other semifinal, in the 6 p.m. opener of a championship twinbill at Martz Hall.
"It means a lot, because we worked hard to get back to this game," said Tamaqua senior forward Amy Zehner, who had another sensational performance with 29 points, 22 rebounds, seven steals and four assists. "23-0 is great, but we want the championship, and we're going to work as hard as we can to get it."
Nativity (16-7), the Division 3 champion, made the Raiders work the full 32 minutes.
The Golden Girls trailed by as many as 13 points at 42-29 in the third quarter, but the frenetic pace allowed them to put together a 28-15 run to draw even at 57 on a Kiely Chaklos drive with 4:40 left.
"It wasn't for the faint of heart here, with how it was going up and down and the way both teams were scoring," said Tamaqua Coach Joe Berezwick.
While Tamaqua had the height advantage, Nativity offset that with its three-point shooting, draining eight triples, with junior Bridget Holohan draining four of them.
Chaklos, a swift senior guard, used her quickness to cut off screens and get to the hoop, collecting a team-high 26 points.
"As much as we prepared for it, they screen very well, they run off them, catch it and shoot it with a quick release," explained Berezwick.
"Give Kiely credit. She'd get that first step and she was gone. At the end, we elected to switch off the screens, and maybe that was just enough to get us the win."
The Raiders, who held a 43-34 rebounding edge, exploded out to a 38-27 halftime lead, pounding the offensive glass for 11 second chance points. They also got to the foul line, hitting 18 of 33 free throws for the game, compared to Nativity's 7-for-10.
"They (Tamaqua) have Amy Zehner, but they are an extremely talented team and not just one person," said Nativity Coach George Forney. "We just got annihilated on the boards in the first half and we got beat off the dribble up top. We fouled because we had to be aggressive, since we gave up height everywhere."
After Chaklos tied it at 57, Streisel scored on a drive to put the Raiders in front 59-57.
"Maria stepped it up and took it to the basket the whole game for us, and that was big," said Berezwick. "She's a sophomore, but you'd have thought she was her sister (2010 graduate Elissa Streisel) out there."
Streisel and Chaklos each went 1-for-2 from the line before a Zehner driving hoop made it 62-58 Tamaqua with 2:35 left.
Chaklos scored on a jumper with 2:11 to go to cut it to 62-60. Each team turned it over until Streisel hit a free throw with 49.9 left. Zehner converted a pair at the line at the 27.5 mark to make it 65-60.
Chaklos was fouled and made 1-of-2 with 22.4 seconds remaining, but the Raiders found Cassie Eroh wide open under the hoop with 15 seconds left. Zehner closed things out with a steal.
Hope 1-2-5-4, M. Streisel 3-8-13-14, C. Streisel 1-0-0-3, Eroh 4-1-2-10, Zehner 11-7-11-29, Updike 3-0-2-7. TOTALS: 23-18-33-67.
Farr 4-0-0-10, Hughes 1-2-2-4, Chalkos 10-4-6-26, Andrefski 0-1-2-1, Holohan 8-0-0-20, Ditzel 0-0-0-0, Field 0-0-0-0, Sabol 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-7-10-61.
Tamaqua 18 20 17 12 - 67
Nativity 11 16 21 13 - 61
Three-pointers: T-C. Streisel 1, Eroh 1, Updike 1; N-Holohan 4, Chaklos 2, Farr 2.