Losing has a tendency to become contagious, and if left untreated, it can certainly infect a program with a sense of frustration and futility.
Just ask Tamaqua head coach Caszy Kosciolek and Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll.
Coming into last night's Schuylkill League Division 1 contest, Tamaqua had managed to win just once in the past 36 days (losers of 9 of its past 10 games), while Jim Thorpe had dropped six straight games after starting the year 5-2.
Sick of losing and needing a win in the worst of ways, the Raiders found a Kure(k) – as in Tamaqua swingman Matt Kurek.
The 6-2 senior prescribed a team-high 20 points (including three three-pointers) along with a healthy dose of 14 rebounds to lead Tamaqua to a 52-41 victory over the Olympians.
"Early January is usually the dog days of basketball season, especially when you're losing and you have a relatively young team," stated Kosciolek. "A win like this can go a long way when you're struggling like we've been recently.
"We had a very disappointing setback Friday at Panther Valley (a 71-57 loss), so for those kids to come in here tonight continuing to believe in themselves and continuing to play hard is just going to give us momentum to finish out the season. A win like this is just a stepping stone to use as the beginning of the foundation."
Jim Thorpe led 11-4 midway through the first quarter, but four consecutive Brett Kosciolek field goals brought the Raiders to within three points (15-12) before the Olympians extended their lead to 18-12
At the 4:36 mark of the second quarter, Kurek tallied his first field goal of the game, which ignited a 14-2 Tamaqua run to end the first half. Kurek scored 10 of those 14 points, including back-to-back three pointers (the second coming at the buzzer) to give Tamaqua a 26-20 halftime lead.
"Matt Kurek stepped up in a big way tonight with scoring and rebounding and Jake Fegley did a tremendous job handling Jim Thorpe's pressure defense," added Kosciolek. "Those two seniors are our leaders and were a big reaso n why we were successful tonight."
The Raiders (4-9, 1-5) carried that surge over to the second half, as they opened the third quarter on a 8-1 run, which increased their lead to 34-21 (their largest lead of the game).
"It's obviously very disappointing," noted Carroll as his team dropped its seventh straight game. "We didn't shoot the ball well at all tonight and Tamaqua controlled the boards both offensively and defensively. That allowed them second and third chances at scoring and it prevented us from running, which is what we like to do."
Jim Thorpe (5-9, 1-5) attempted to climb its way back in the game by applying pressure. For the most part, that tactic was successful, with 12 of Tamaqua's 20 turnovers coming in the second half, as the Raiders' lead was cut to 44-39 with just under three minutes left to play.
However, Kurek scored six of Tamaqua's final eight points to preserve the victory.
"I think it all came down to not letting them get into the lane with dribble penetration and forcing them to shoot the ball from the perimeter," concluded Kosciolek. "Our downfall all season has been the beginning of third quarter, where it always seems we give up a ton of points, so for us to maintain the lead through the third quarter tonight was critical."
Freshman Brett Kosciolek backed Kurek with 17 points, while Darius Clark scored 26 of Jim Thorpe's 41 points.
Tamaqua shot 20-for-45 from the floor (44-percent), while the Olympians converted 31-percent (17-for-54) of their shots.
In the JV game, Tamaqua improved to 8-5 with a 67-48 victory.
Harleston 0-0-0-0, Moore 0-0-0-0, Lynch 0-0-0-0, Ciavarella 3-0-0-6, Freeman 0-0-0-0, Baombolia 0-0-0-0, Brown 0-0-0-0, Clark 11-3-8-26, Johnson 2-2-4-6, Ennis 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 17-5-12-41.
Nunemacher 2-0-0-4, Wargula 1-0-0-3, Fegley 1-0-0-2, B. Rottet 0-0-0-0, Frantz 0-0-0-0, Kosciolek 7-3-4-17, Kurek 6-5-6-20, Kehl 2-0-0-4, Krell 1-0-2-2. TOTALS: 20-8-12-52.
Jim Thorpe 11 9 8 13 - 41
Tamaqua 8 18 13 13 - 52
Three-Pointers: Jim Thorpe - Clark 1; Tamaqua - Kurek 3, Wargula 1.