If defense wins championships, the Palmerton girls basketball team is certainly off to a good start.
After stifling Jim Thorpe in the opening round of the Lady Indian Holiday Classic, the Lady Bombers used another impressive defensive effort to dispatch Lehighton 50-27 in the championship game.
Holding only a 13-11 lead after the first quarter, Palmerton (7-2) turned up the pressure on Lehighton, outscoring the Lady Indians 28-2 over the next two quarters to take a commanding 41-13 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"I think our defensive intensity picked up a little bit," said Palmerton coach Rodney Strohl. "Lehighton played well during that first quarter and you have to give them credit."
Strohl and his staff made the necessary adjustments to take control of the game in the second half.
"They had us confused with their scheme and we had to make a couple of changes," he said. "As a coaching staff, we had to think a little bit about what we wanted to do at halftime to really come out strong in the third quarter."
Tournament MVP Jade Farquhar, who averaged 15.5 points per game against Jim Thorpe and Lehighton, scored eight of her game-high 12 points in the third quarter.
And just as it was the previous night, the Lady Bombers got contributions throughout the lineup, as Abby Reimer added 10 points while Mikayla Krupa, Madison Mummey and Janel Tracy each chipped in seven points apiece.
"I coach individuals to get better, but we teach as a team," Strohl said. "Teamwork, defensively to hold Lehighton under 40 points, and teamwork, offensively to get to 50 points says a lot about the girls' effort."
Effort certainly wasn't a problem for Lehighton, as the Lady Indians (3-4) battled to keep Palmerton's offense silent as long as they could, holding Farquhar to only two points in the first half.
But that exertion took its toll, as Lehighton struggled to keep pace offensively.
"When you have players that just use so much energy on the defensive side (of the ball) it really limits you offensively," said Lehighton coach Eric Gidney. "There were times that the girls were just so gassed, especially in that second quarter, and even into the third, where they really just couldn't do much on the offensive end.
"I think that was part of the challenge. But to Palmerton's credit, they're well prepared. Obviously, Rodney the challenge. But to Palmerton's credit, they're well prepared. Obviously, Rodney (and his staff) did a good job making some adjustments in the second half. I think that, in conjunction with us just running out of fuel, hurt us late in the game."
Holly Bollinger came off the bench to pace the Lady Indians with 10 points, all in the fourth quarter, while Alessandra Rossino contributed nine points.
For a Lehighton squad that came into the season with several unknowns, the 1-1 record in the tournament will serve as a point of reference moving forward.
"Having taken this position in May, we had limited time to get together during the offseason," Gidney said. "This loss will serve as a benchmark for where we want to be moving forward."
Palmerton will carry the momentum of two strong games in the tournament into the second half of the season, one that will carry high hopes for a consistently improving team.
"We have a tough second half of the season coming up, with the Southern Division of the Colonial League, and then back to the Northern Division," Strohl said of the schedule. "We will have our hands full, but the girls have been working hard and we well make sure we prepare them well.
"My coaching staff does a great job of helping me out, and that's why we're a team. It's a great, team-oriented group, and that's something I'm really proud of."
Smale 0-0-0-0, Krupa 2-3-6-7, Mummey 3-0-0-7, Paulinho 0-0-0-0, Farquhar 6-0-1-12, Sterling 0-0-0-0, Reimer 5-0-0-10, Muffley 1-0-0-2, Beers 1-0-0-2, Nemeth 1-1-2-3, Tracy 2-3-4-7. TOTALS: 21-7-12-50.
Durishin 3-0-2-6, Scott 0-0-0-0, Whiteman 0-0-0-0, Fital 0-0-0-0, Blasiak 0-0-2-0, Bollinger 3-4-6-10, Thompson 1-0-4-2, Rossino 4-0-0-9. TOTALS: 11-4-14-27.
Palmerton 13 11 17 9 - 50
Lehighton 11 2 0 14 - 27
Three pointers: P - Mummey 1; L - Rossino 1.