The Lehighton boys basketball team was coming into Saturday's match-up with Tamaqua with its backs against the wall.
The Indians suffered a 30-point loss Friday night to MVC foe East Stroudsburg South, making their clash with the Raiders (12-8) all the more important. Their loss to the Cavaliers dropped the Indians below .500 on the season and with only three games remaining on the schedule, including a match-up with MVC leader Pocono Mountain West (15-4). A win over the Raiders was a necessity if they wanted to qualify for the postseason.
Needless to say, Lehighton responded. The Indians (10-10) led after every quarter and used their speed and quickness to their advantage, running past the Raiders for a 55-48 non-league victory.
Lehighton did not shoot the ball well the night before, so it was evident that Lehighton coach Rich Oertner wanted to keep the Raiders in a man-to-man defense in order to get quality shots. Fortunately, for Oertner and company that's exactly what the Indians were able to do, getting out to an early lead, holding a five point advantage after the first quarter.
"I think the difference was their quickness," said Tamaqua coach Caszy Kosciolek. "Their quickness really hurt us on both ends of the floor. They did a good job of keeping us out on the perimeter and our guys had to hit some pretty tough jump shots in order for us to stay in the game. The credit has to go to them. They played well and the atmosphere was exciting. I'm proud of my guys too, we fought them tooth and nail, we just came up short."
The two battled throughout the second with Tamaqua showing a little more intensity on the defensive end of the floor. The Raiders held Lehighton to ßjust six points in the second, still the Indians held a one point lead at the half.
The third quarter proved to be the moment where the momentum started to shift totally in the direction of the Indians.
Lehighton came out in a fury to start the third going on an 8-0 run, extending their lead to nine at the 6:40 mark.
"We're not a big team, but we're a quick and fast team," said Oertner. "Our ability to run with anybody has been the key for us this year and our point guard Anthony Rossino is as quick as any kid I've coached. He has kept us in a lot of our league games because he' so quick. The atmosphere tonight was perfect too. I think against South with the big crowd and the band and everything it got our guys a little too excited. Tonight was the perfect amount of people, it was full, and it was loud, but it wasn't crazy. The kids fed off that and played well."
Tamaqua sophomore Brett Kosciolek did his best to help the Raiders get the "W" in the second half. Kosciolek hit big shots on numerous occasions and from deep, tickling the twine from about three or four feet from behind the arc on all four of his triples. A Kosciolek trey at the seven minute mark tied things up at 38 all. However, the Indians would keep the pressure on yet again and extended their lead to six around the two minute mark.
Kosciolek brought the Raiders back within striking distance again, this time hitting a triple from about six feet behind the three point line. That's the closest the Raiders would get as Lehighton held Tamaqua scoreless for the rest of the contest, scoring a big seven point victory.
"We're a young team, but it's nice to see our guys dig down and get a big win in a pressure situation," said Oertner. "That's a big improvement from last season, the kids are starting win close games now and that's a nice to thing to see. We still got a lot of work to do though. We need one more win, so we have to get back to business Monday."
For Lehighton scoring balance was the story of the night. James Farano led the charge with 16, Rossino added 14, Tyler Crum netted 11, and Jordan Knappenberger finished with 10.
Bo Rottet finished with 15 and Adam Frantz with 10 to go along with Kosciolek's 18 points.
The Lehighton and Tamaqua girls teams also faced off Saturday night in the opener with Tamaqua (16-6) continuing their strong play down the stretch, handling the Indians for a 48-25 non-league win.
The Lady Raiders got off to a bit of a slow start, but turned it on in the second and third quarter outscoring Lehighton 26-11.
"Lehighton came out and played us well and it took us a little while to get in the flow of the game. Luckily, defensively we played so well and we were getting stops," said Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick. "In the third quarter we just put it together and the kids executed offensively. We're real happy with the win."
For Tamaqua Christine Streisel scored a game-high 15 points and had 10 rebounds, while Amanda Solt added 11.
Rottet 5-0-0-15, Chartier 0-0-0-0, Krell 0-1-2-1, Frantz 5-0-0-10, Wargula 1-2-2-4, Kehl 0-0-0-0, Kosciolek 7-0-0-18. Totals: 18-2-2-48
Rossino: 5-5-6-16, Farano: 6-3-4-16, Crum: 3-3-4-11, J. Knappenberger: 4-0-0-10, Mele: 1-0-0-2, Nalesnik: 0-0-0-0. Totals: 19-11-14-55
Tamaqua 12 10 10 16 - 48
Lehighton 17 6 15 17 - 55
Three pointers: Tamaqua - Rottet 5, Kosciolek 4; Lehighton - J. Knappenberger 2, Crum 2, Farano 1, Rossino 1.
Hartung 0-0-0-0, Demetriades 3-0-1-6, Slivka 0-0-0-0, Kabilko 2-0-0-4, M. Streisel 3-0-0-6, C. Streisel 6-1-2-15 , V. Solt 0-0-0-0, Jones 0-0-0-0, Valasek 3-0-0-6, Wittig 0-0-0-0, Pratka 0-0-0-0, A. Solt 5-1-2-11. TOTALS: 22-2-4-48.
Rossino 0-0-0-0, Green 0-0-0-0, Shelly 1-2-2-4, Barclay 1-0-0-3, Yurasits 0-2-3-2, Blasiak 1-0-0-2, Durishin 1-1-2-3, Smith 1-0-0-3, Thompson 3-2-4-8, Rehrig 0-0-0-0, Cordova 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 8-711-25.
Tamaqua 16 8 18 6 - 48
Lehighton 6 2 9 8 - 25
Three-pointers: Tamaqua - C. Streisel 2; Lehighton - Barclay 1, Smith 1.