Panther Valley's energy on defense played a major role in its 59-35 Schuylkill League win over Jim Thorpe Wednesday night.
The Lady Panthers (3-2,1-0) half court press and tight man to man defense forced Thorpe to turn the ball over five times before the game was two minutes old as Panther Valley, led by the perimeter shooting of Abbey Whildin, controlled the first quarter and finished it with a 16-6 advantage.
"Our plan was to use ball reversal against their zone until we got good looks for our guards," said Panther coach Josh Wank. Our misdirection also was able to extend their zone and open up the middle.
"I am really happy with our defense tonight too. Any time you keep a team under 40 points is a good thing. That's because we didn't give Jim Thorpe many second shots and we made them work hard to get the ball inside."
The growing pains for Coach Rob Kovac's Lady Olympians continued as his young team played PV evenly only in spurts during the second and third quarters.
"We're 100 per cent better than we were when we played Schuylkill Haven 10 days ago," said Kovac, "but our inexperience showed tonight as our girls got a taste of Schuylkill League basketball."
Jim Thorpe (1-3, 0-1), led by Danielle Becker's six points, fought back and outscored Panther Valley 10-9 in the second quarter to keep the game within reach at the half.
In fact, the Lady Olympians closed to within seven points with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter helped by two treys from Nikki Ennis, but then the experience of PV's down low play increased the Lady Panther's lead to 15 points. Fourteen of PV's 18 points were scored by a combined effort from seniors, Trayronda Rice and Samantha Zlock. On several PV possessions, Rice established position for a pass from the top of the key and attempted to score while Zlock boxed out and scored off rebounds.
Kovac commented that his team showed "resolve."
"We made a team decision that we were going to work hard to get better and we are. We are still looking for pieces to the puzzle and we need to find a point guard, but I am proud of how our kids played tonight against a good battle-tested Panther Valley team."
"We kept Rice and Zlock quiet until they took over at the end of the third," said Kovac. "First we had trouble finding Whilden on the perimeter, but then they just wore us down with the rebounding and put backs in the fourth quarter."
Whildin scored a game high 20 points for Panther Valley with Zlock adding 12. Rice's tallied 11 points on strong play at the low post. Jim Thorpe was led hy Ennis' 11 points followed by Becker's 10.
Kovac remains optimistic about his young team.
"We have no seniors so we are in a two year process. Take Danielle Becker, for example. She has real good size and she wants to improve and she is. Even though PV was more ready to play due to more experience, we hung with them pretty well. We just need to be more consistent and cut down on the turnovers."
And improvement was statistically shown as the Lady Olympians reduced their turnovers from 19 in the first half to 11 in the second half.
Kovac knows what his team is up against. "We are asking a lot from our kids at this stage and only game experience will get us to where we want to be."
Wank was excited to win his team's first league game of the season.
"We have a lot to look forward to and we have to get ready for a really good North Schuylkill team on Friday."
Whilden 6-5-9-20, Blasko 4-0-0-8, Vance 1-0-0-2, Jacobs 0-0-0-0, Smith 0-0-0-0, Corby 0-0-1-0, Markovich 1-0-0-3, Mikovich 1-1-2-3, Rice 5-1-2-11, Zlock 5-2-3-12.
Hassler 0-0-0-0, Doughty 1-2-4-5, Cope-0-0-0-0, Condly 3-1-2-7, Ennis 4-0-0-11, Rusbarsky 0-0-0-0, Cressman 1-0-0-2, Becker 5-0-4-10, Bush 0-0-0-0, Shigo 0-0-0-0.
Panther Vy. 16 9 18 16 - 59
Jim Thorpe 6 10 12 7 - 35
Three pointers: PV-Whildin-3, Markovich-1, JT-Doughty-1, Condly-1, Ennis-3.