Facing Mahanoy Area can be a defensive nightmare.
Blessed with a strong interior game as well as solid perimeter players, the Golden Bears pose numerous problems for opponents.
Jim Thorpe and new head coach Grant Whary knew that coming into Friday night's season opener in the first round of the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament. And while the Olympians did show some glimpses of tough defense, they were no match for Mahanoy and fell by a 52-30 score.
"They have some really good shooters and they have big men to follow that so it's pick your poison with their inside or outside," said Whary, whose team will now face Marian in tonight's consolation round. "They have a great tradition and a great team.
"I'm proud of our effort. Defensively I'm extremely proud of how we did. Offensively, that'll come. Right now that's still a learning spot. We're still looking for scorers. Our shots just weren't falling tonight."
The Bears, on the other hand, had no trouble knocking down a healthy number of shots.
With the Olympians staying primarily in a 2-3 zone, it opened the door for Mahanoy's shooters. The Bears hit on 5-of-15 three-pointers in the first half, getting two treys from both Brian Miller and Jason Richmond, to open up a 27-11 advantage.
"We've been pretty good against zones," said longtime Mahanoy mentor Mickey Holland, whose team ended 9-of-28 from behind the arc. "We do have some shooters. I was a little worried coming in because we have two scrims last week and we didn't play well.
"I thought for the first game we really moved the ball well ... And that's when you shoot well, when you're moving the ball inside-out."
When Mahanoy wasn't hitting from outside, Tyler Cavenas was cleaning up under the basket. The Lehigh-bound football player had seven first-quarter points, with two of his baskets coming off the offensive glass. Cavenas finished with 11 points and five boards.
"They have good athletes and solid basketball players," said Whary. "I thought we held our own for the most part. They were up on us and they're a good defensive team as well. They didn't give our shooters too much room."
The Olympians were held to just 5-of-23 shooting from the floor over the first three quarters and trailed 41-15 entering the final frame. Thorpe did receive eight points from Shane Snisky in the fourth quarter, and he ended the contest with 11 points.
"For a lot of our guys it was their first varisty experience and I'm sure there were some jitters," said Whary. "I kind of knew before hand they would be nervous. I told them to stay even-keel but the nerves are going to come ... Hopefully we'll continue to play well on defense and our shots will start falling."
B. Carroll 0-0-0-0, Acker 1-3-4-6, Heydt 0-0-0-0, Principe 1-0-0-2, Micciche 2-1-2-5, R. Carroll 0-0-1-0, Lawrence 1-0-0-2, St. Hill 1-0-0-2, Green 0-0-0-0, McElmoyle 0-0-0-0, Everitt 1-0-0-2, Snisky 3-5-6-11. TOTALS: 10-9-13-30.
Richmond 4-0-1-11, Yedsena 2-1-2-5, McNeil 2-0-0-6, Merchlinsky 1-0-0-3, Talbot 1-0-0-2, Wronski 0-0-0-0, Miller 3-0-0-9, Joseph 0-2-2-2, Cavenas 5-1-1-11, Kuzma 1-1-3-3. TOTALS: 19-5-9-52.
Jim Thorpe 5 6 4 15 - 30
Mahanoy Area 16 11 14 11 - 52
Three-pointers: JT - Acker 1; MA - Richmond 3, Miller 3, McNeil 2, Merchlinsky 1.