POTTSVILLE – Tamaqua and Tri-Valley feature two of the top frontcourt players in the Schuylkill League in the Lady Raiders' 5-10 senior Amy Zehner and the Bulldogs' 6-4 sophomore Tara Nahodil.
With 2:58 left in their Schuylkill championship rematch, both were relegated to being spectators after fouling out.
The Raider guards maintained their composure under Tri-Valley's full-court pressure, picking up some breakaway hoops down the stretch to hold on for a 46-37 triumph Friday night at Martz Hall.
Tamaqua, the Division I champion, remained undefeated at 24-0 in capturing its second straight Schuylkill crown and third overall. The other was during the 1976-77 season.
"This is special," said Tamaqua Coach Joe Berezwick as he clutched the championship trophy. "There have been teams that have won State titles from the Schuylkill League that haven't won this trophy here."
Tamaqua beat Tri-Valley 47-33 on Dec. 18 and cruised to a 51-28 win over the Bulldogs in last year's league title tilt. This time, the Division II champion Lady 'Dawgs (20-5) made things much tighter.
"Hats off to Tri-Valley for a heck of a game," said Berezwick. With their youth (the 'Dawgs start one junior and four sophomores), you really saw the future of the Schuylkill League here tonight."
The hot hand of senior Cassie Eroh, who connected for 10 of her 11 points in the first quarter, including a pair of triples, gave Tamaqua a 16-7 lead after one period.
Unlike the frenzied tempo of the Raiders' 67-61 semifinal win over Nativity, however, the pace against defensive minded Tri-Valley was much slower.
The 'Dawgs' Taylor Troutman did a solid job on the Bucknell-bound Zehner, who finished with a season-low eight points, well below her 23.8 average.
However, Zehner drew an early offensive foul on Nahodil, who picked up her second with 5:12 still to go in the first quarter and sat the rest of the half. Nahodil exited for good with six points with 4:34 left in the game.
"That was frustrating, because Tara had that look in her eyes that she wanted to go to war," said North Schuylkill Coach Careen Caulfield. "Unfortunately, she wasn't able to show what she can do."
The Raiders were on top 26-16 at half and led by as many as 15 several times, the last coming on an Allison Updike driving hoop that made it 35-20 with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
Tri-Valley clawed its way back, and after Zehner fouled out, had whittled the deficit to 37-32 on a Juli Weber free throw with 2:26 remaining.
Without their star player, and the 'Dawgs' pressing, the Raiders showed their poise.
"It's a well-balanced cast," noted Berezwick. "They have chemistry and experience, and they have played in these kinds of games before. That's the secret to our success the last couple of years."
Updike, a senior bound for Georgia on a javelin scholarship, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and she was able to break the press with some long passes.
"Allie has that Division I javelin arm, and the Streisel twins (Maria and Christine) broke free and she was able to hit them long," concurred Berezwick.
"With Amy out, it was like, 'stay calm, relax and get your game under control," said Updike. "It was a battle of guards. They had pressure up top, but our girls got loose on the other end and we were able to hit them with the ball."
Maria Streisel's bucket with 2:26 left made it 39-32 Raiders. Updike made 1-for-2 at the line with 1:11 left for a 40-32 edge.
Chelsea Stuztman's foul shot cut it to 40-33 at the 1:11 mark, but Maria Streisel broke loose long again to push it to 42-33 three seconds later. Weber's deuce put it back at seven at 42-35, but Christine Streisel break free for a 42-33 edge with 52 ticks left. Kylie Spickler and Maria Streisel traded hoops after that as the Raiders held on for the title.
"Winning this again is amazing," said Eroh. "We worked hard all year to get where we are, and we pulled this out as a team."
HOOPLA – Maria Streisel had seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter … Zehner had a "No She Didn't" highlight reel bucket which she scored while sprawled on the floor ... attendance for the doubleheader was 3,339.
Hope 0-0-2-0, M. Streisel 4-3-4-11, C. Streisel 2-0-0-5, Eroh 3-3-4-11, Zehner 4-0-1-8, Updike 4-2-5-10, Wallace 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 17-9-18-46.
Weber 3-4-8-11, Newswanger 0-0-0-0, Spickler 2-2-2-6, Smeltz 1-0-0-2, Troutman 1-2-4-4, C. Stutzman 2-3-5-8, Nahodil 3-0-0-6. TOTALS: 12-11-19-37.
Tamaqua 16 10 9 11 - 49
Tri-Valley 7 9 6 13 - 37
Three-pointers: T-Eroh 2, C. Streisel 1; TV-Weber 1, C. Stutzman 1.