Rebuilding a program isn't an easy task, and the road to becoming a successful team usually has a lot of bumps on the way.
For the Tamaqua Blue Raiders, it looks like their route still has a few rough patches, but signs of a smoother road look to be on the horizon.
The Raiders almost hung on to beat a tough Pine Grove squad, losing 50-48 in an early season Schuylkill League Division I contest.
Tamaqua (3-7) started out hot against the Cardinals in the first half, hitting five three pointers in the two quarters. Brett Kosciolek was the scoring option for the Raiders during that time, making three out of his total four treys on the night, while scoring 12 points.
Another reason for the Raiders' success in the first half was their defense. Tamaqua, who has mostly been a man-to-man team so far in 2011-12, went to a 2-3 zone and the Cardinals had trouble executing on the offensive side of the ball.
"We learned a lot about ourselves tonight," said Tamaqua coach Caszy Kosciolek. "We learned we could play the 2-3 very well, and even when we had to switch back to man at the end of the game, the kids answered the call. I'm impressed with the way our kids played and playing in these close games against good teams can only help us grow as we move forward."
A concern for Tamaqua coming into their match-up had to be one in the form of Pine Grove utility man Kyler Burke. Burke leads the Schuylkill League in scoring at 18.7 points per game and showed why on Wednesday night. Whenever the Cardinals needed a big bucket they went to Burke along with his sidekick Larry Zimmerman (18.0 ppg). The two combined for 36 of Pine Grove's 50 points on the evening.
Pine Grove (5-3) improved its play in the second half by playing a little defense of its own, switching Burke to Kosciolek to try and limit the freshman's shot attempts.
"I'm a players coach," said Pine Grove head man David Archer. "Since Kyler is such an offensive threat I try and give him a break on defense. He came to me and wanted to guard their best player. That shows you the kind-of kid he is."
The game itself got real interesting in the fourth quarter with both teams scoring back and forth in dramatic fashion. After two missed foul shots by Zimmerman, Tamaqua point guard Jake Fegley received an outlet pass and stormed the length of the court for a lay-up, tying the game at 48-48.
On Pine Grove's next possession, Zimmerman took the game into his own hands driving to the hoop and drawing a foul heading to the line with 1.6 seconds remaining on the clock. Zimmerman redeemed himself from his two previous misses and drained both to earn the victory for the Cardinals.
Kosciolek finished with 15 points and Fegley with 11. Tamaqua's Tyler Krell scored a team-high 16 points and basically kept the Raiders in the game in the second half, scoring 12 points after intermission.
Nunemacher 0-0-0-0, Wargula 1-0-0-3, Fegley 4-3-4-11, Frantz 0-0-0-0, Kosciolek 5-1-2-15, Kurek 1-0-0-3, Krell 8-0-4-16. TOTALS: 19-4-10-48.
Schwalm 0-0-0-0, T. Zimmerman 2-2-2-8, Rossi 1-2-5-4, A. Gerber 0-0-0-0, Wolfe 0-0-0-0, Burke 7-5-8-19, Todero 0-0-0-0, L. Zimmerman 4-7-10-17, Kreiser 1-0-0-2, Zerbe 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-16-25-50.
Tamaqua 13 12 8 15 - 48
Pine Grove 9 14 10 17 - 50
Three-pointers: PG - T. Zimmerman 2, L. Zimmerman 2. T - Kosciolek 4, Wargula 1, Kurek 1.