The Tamaqua Lady Raiders are hitting their stride and just at the right time.

With district playoffs looming Tamaqua has been playing their best basketball of the season and continued their strong play, handling Panther Valley 59-41 to end the 2013 regular season.

The Lady Raiders (16-6) have won a remarkable 11 out of there last 12 games. They showed the Panthers (11-11) from the start last night that they were going to push the envelope. Tamaqua outscored PV 33-17 in the first half and took the Panthers out of their comfort zone by denying their top scorer Abby Whildin (15.33 ppg) the ball. Raiders' point guard and defensive stopper Maria Streisel blanketed Whildin all throughout the first half, holding her to just four points.

"It was a top priority for us to keep the ball out of her hands," said Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick. "She had 23 against us the last time out and they played us pretty tough the whole way, so we wanted to limit her touches. Maria did a great job on her when we denied her full court and it stalled their offense a bit their in the first half."

Stalled is an understatement as the Panthers shot just 5-for-22 from the field in the first half. The Raiders dominant first half also had a lot to do with their offensive flow. Maria Streisel (14) and Christine Streisel (15) combined for 29 of the Raiders 33 points in the first half slicing and shooting their way through the Panthers defense. The Tamaqua offense used screen after screen to get Christine open, while Maria used a different approach. Maria Streisel took advantage of the PV defenders closing out to the perimeter, getting to the basket almost anytime she wanted.

"Our defense has been playing pretty well for most of the season, but our offensive flow is just great right now," said Berezwick. "We have been moving the ball so well on the offensive end and when our girls knock down their shots we're a pretty tough team. We have such an unselfish bunch and we're just really clicking right now. We're going to take a few days off and then get back to work on Monday, but it's real encouraging to see us playing so well heading into districts.

Panther Valley showed some signs of life in the second half getting the lead down to 10 at one point, but the Tamaqua offense was just too strong. Panther Valley coach Josh Wank attributed the Panthers' struggles to the slow start in the first half.

"That first quarter hurt us," said Wank. "We hold them to about 10 or 12 in the first like we've been doing and maybe it's a different ball game. We have a few things we need to work on before heading into districts like improving our team defense and our defense on the ball. We're going to see a team with the same skill set as Tamaqua in our postseason game, so it's important for us to improve in that area."

Christine Streisel finished with a game-high 24 points, while Maria Streisel added 21.

For Panther Valley, Whildin finished with 14 and Madison Blasko chipped in with 10.

the moment Tamaqua seems to be a lock to play Salisbury (13-9) in the District 11 AA Quarterfinals. The Panthers still have to wait and see who their opponent will be in the District 11 AA postseason. They have to see how league playoffs conclude next week. The Panthers could be facing either Notre Dame Green Pond (18-4) out of the Colonial League or Schuylkill League foe Minersville (17-4).

TAMAQUA

Demetriades 0-0-2-0, Kabilko 0-3-4-3, M. Streisel 7-5-6-21, C. Streisel 9-3-5-24, V. Solt 1-0-0-2, Valasek 0-0-0-0, A. Solt 3-3-6-9. Totals 20 -14-23-59.

PANTHER VY.

Whildin 4-6-9-14, Blasko 4-0-0-10, Vance 0-0-0-0, Smith 1-0-2-2, Markovich 2-0-0-6, Mikovich 2-1-4-5, Zlock 1-2-2-4. Totals 14 9-17 41.

Tamaqua 20 13 12 14 - 59

Panther Vy. 10 7 15 9 - 41

Three-pointers: T - C. Streisel 3, M. Streisel 2; PV - Blasko 2, Markovich 2.