Lehighton head coach Rich Oertner wasn't happy with the play of his team in the first half of the 33rd Annual Slatington Rotary Boys Basketball Tournament at Northern Lehigh High School on Friday night.
When it came down to crunch time in the final quarter, the Indians put it into high gear to pull away for a 52-32 victory over Palmerton to win the championship.
The Indians led by five after the Spencer Hay scored for the Bombers to start the final eight minutes. Leading by a 33-28 score, Oertner quickly called time out to make sure the five guys he had on the floor understood what he wanted them to do.
It turned out to be a great move as the Indians ran off 11 straight points for a 44-28 advantage. They converted 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch and Anthony Rossino scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to help make the final a 10-point win.
"We put into another gear as far as athletic ability down the stretch," said Oertner. "We started playing a little bit better. It just seemed from last night's game to tonight there was a big letdown to start. We made some bad mistakes passing the ball on offense, but you have to give the Palmerton coach (Leigh Keenan) a little credit. He came out in a defense which I would expect, but not from them. He started probably his best defensive team instead of his best offensive team and they played pretty good 'D' in the first half that's for sure."
The Bombers actually led by three in the first quarter until the Indians scored the final four points to take a 8-7 lead.
Lehighton had a four-point lead but scored the final five points of the first half as Tyler Krum, the tourney MVP, hit a three and scored five points in the quarter to give his team a 21-12 advantage.
"In the first half, we probably took at least four shots that shouldn't have been taken," said Oertner. "If they make one of them, it changes the perspective. And Jordan (Knappenberger) had a rough night shooting, but others picked it up.
"We didn't play our best, but we gutted it out and Palmerton has improved since we played them earlier.
"The title is going to serve for us as a nice mid-season break. And (James) Farano played through an injury and we need to get him healthy."
Palmerton actually outscored Lehighton in the third quarter and cut it to six a few times before trailing by seven entering the last quarter.
"We guarded their personnel great," said Keenan. "Our guys followed our game plan to a T. We could have finished shots a little bit better around the rim in the first half and might have had a lead instead of trailing. Maybe we would have played the second half differently if we would have had the lead.
"We had them all the way until the third quarter and they broke a way from us. We're getting more confident, we just have to get over that hump. That's what we need.
Besides Krum, who had a game-high 17, all-tournament team selections included Palmerton's Mark Quinn and Spencer Hay, Jim Thorpe's Shane Snisky and Northern Lehigh's Matt Egan and Tyler DiBilio.
The lone Bomber in double figures was Mike Stasko, who had 10.
Hay 3-0-0-6, Achtermann 3-2-2-8, Svetik 0-0-0-0, Lesher 0-0-0-0, Weber 0-0-0-0, Frey 0-0-0-0, Suto 0-0-0-0, Quinn 2-4-6-8, Andress 0-0-0-0, Buck 0-0-0-0, Stasko 4-2-2-10. TOTALS: 12-8-10-32.
Rossino 5-5-6-15, Farano 2-1-2-6, Krum 7-1-2-17, Zwetolitz 0-0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0-0, McCandless 0-0-0-0, K. Knappenberger 0-0-0-0, Ruzika 0-0-0-0, Chambos 2-0-0-4, J. Knappenberger 2-3-3-7, Mele 0-3-4-3. TOTALS: 18-13-17-52.
Palmerton 7 5 14 6 - 32
Lehighton 8 13 12 19 - 52
Three-pointers: P - None; L - Krum 2, Farano 1.