Two teams, both looking to find their identity, squared off in the opener of the Slatington Rotary Tournament on Thursday night.
Jim Thorpe and Palmerton battled toe-to-toe for three quarters before the Olympians made a stand and pulled out a 74-62 victory.
Khadr Lindsey scored 13 of his game-high 20 points in the final quarter to help the Olympians pull away for the win and earn them the right to face Northern Lehigh, a 61-38 winner over Lehighton, in tonight's championship.
There were 16 lead changes in the game that was highly contested entering the final eight minutes. The Olympians took a four-point edge into the fourth quarter and rode the hot hand of Lindsey to cash in the win.
The kids are growing up before our eyes," said Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll afterwards. "It was ugly in the first half, but in the second half we kept the turnovers down and our defense turned the game around.
"And then we were able to leak out and get some fast break points, which we were more comfortable with and finished at the other end."
The Bombers held their own early on holding a 13-10 lead after the first quarter and a 27-26 edge at halftime.
Freshman Spencer Hay had eight points in the first half, while Matt Leaver added five to keep Palmerton in front.
In the third quarter, Hay and Leaver each scored six points, but Jaquan Brown had seven and Lindsey started his run with six more to push the Olympians in front 46-42. The Bombers scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 47-46 lead, but the Olympians ran off 11 in a row to make it 57-47 and the rest was history.
Carroll was happy to see three players finish in double figures as Brown and Bryce Micciche finished with 17 and 13 respectively.
"If you saw our boxscores early in the year you'd be scratching your head wondering how we got this many tonight," said Carroll. "Give Palmerton credit. They gave us everything they had. But for some reason tonight we started playing together.
"It'll be no easy task tomorrow night. it's going to be difficult. We're happy to get there, but we're not satisfied to show up. It's going to be a monumental task, but you never know. That's why you play the game. Anything can happen."
Hay finished with a team-high 17 points, while Logan Lesher added 14 and Leaver 13.
Palmerton head coach Frank McCarroll was disappointed with the loss, but saw improvement offensively.
"We're putting some points up, but we're committing too many turnovers and that led to some easy baskets and helped them go on that run," said McCarroll. "Our free throw shooting hurt us for the second game in a row."
The Bombers missed 17 free throws last night and lost by 12. On Saturday, at Pen Argyl, they missed 10 free throws and lost by 10.
"I like to run a more wide open offense," McCarroll noted. "We're getting good looks, but we have to get back and play better defense. It's still early in the season and the kids, even though they're young, have given it their all.
Hill 3-0-0-8, Harleston 3-1-2-8, Lindsey 9-2-4-20, M. Principe 1-0-0-2, S. Principe 0-0-0-0, McElmoyle 0-0-0-0, Micciche 4-4-4-13, Brown 7-3-7-17, Everitt 3-0-4-6. TOTALS: 30-10-21-74.
Hay 5-5-10-17 Shigo 1-0-0-2, Achterman 0-1-2-1, Lesher 4-5-9-14, Pereira 0-0-0-0, Leaver 4-5-9-13, Quinn 2-2-2-6, Shivone 0-0-0-0, Koma 0-0-0-0, Buck 2-1-2-5, Frey 1-2-2-4, Luers 0-0-2-0. TOTALS: 19-21-38-62.
Jim Thorpe 10 16 20 28 - 74
Palmerton 13 14 15 20 - 62
Three-pointers: JT - Hill 2, Harleston 1, Micciche 1; P - Hay 2, Lesher 1.