The Panther Valley girls basketball team started strong on Saturday night and pulled away for a comfortable non-league win against Lehighton, 46-30.
With the win, Panther Valley moves to 8-6 on the season while Lehighton falls to 2-10.
Panther Valley coach Josh Wank knew his team was going to be in for a tough game coming off an overtime loss to Pottsville Friday night. The Lady Panthers responded by jumping out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter and then slowly increased their advantage throughout the rest of the game.
"It was kind of a gradual progression," Wank said. "I thought we chipped away and extended the lead each quarter, which is what we wanted to do."
Wank was pleased with the effort he got from his girls, especially after such a tough loss the night before.
"I give these kids a lot of credit," Wank said. "They were in a war last night with Pottsville and we lost by four in overtime.
"Give Lehighton some credit, too. They were scrappy and they really fought tonight."
Panther Valley's leading scorer, Abbey Whildin, got into foul trouble early in the first quarter, which forced Wank to change his strategy for the rest of the game.
"That hurt us," Wank said. "We're not a very deep team, so anytime we get into foul trouble early we have to make multiple adjustments.
"I thought we coached our way out of it and I thought our kids responded."
Panther Valley's leading scorer in the game was Madison Blasko with a game-high 18 points. Jamey Mikovoch and Sam Zlock chipped in eight points apiece for the Lady Panthers.
Wank was pleased with the well-rounded effort he got from his team, even if it didn't show up in the final boxscore.
"Kailee Smith had a big night," Wank said. "This is her first night starting and I thought she did really well.
"I also thought Taylor Vance stepped up. I thought our guards did a great job handling pressure late in the game."
Wank knows that at this point in the season every win is crucial in order to help his team qualify for the District 11 playoffs.
"Any win at this point is a good win," said Wank. "We got a big win in a tough environment and I give our kids a lot of credit."
For Lehighton, the final result was not the desired outcome. But coach Chris Kasian was pleased with how hard his team worked throughout the game, even after they fell behind.
"They gave every ounce of everything they had from start to finish," Kasian said. "I'm just so pleased with their effort.
"I don't think the score was indicitive of how close the game was because we really were in it until the end."
Kasian also had praise for Panther Valley and felt he could take pride in where his team is after playing so well against a tough opponent.
"Hats off to Panther Valley, they played an awesome game," Kasian said. "To be able to compete against a fine program like that and know that we gave everything we had, I'm just so pleased with these girls. This is going to move the program in the right direction."
Kasaundra Barclay and Celina Fital paced Lehighton with nine points apiece.
Whildin 2-2-4-6, Blasko 6-4-6-18, Smith 0-0-0-0, Markovich 2-0-0-6, Mikovich 2-3-4-8, Zlock 2-4-8-8, Vance 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-13-22-46.
Rossino 1-1-2-4, Shelly 0-0-2-0, Barclay 4-0-4-9, Fital 4-0-0-9, Blasiak 1-0-0-2, Durishin 1-0-0-2, Smith 1-0-0-2, Thompson 0-2-4-2, Rehrig 0-0-0-0, Cordova 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 12-3-11-30.
Panther Vy. 14 8 10 14 - 46
Lehighton 7 8 4 11 - 30
Three-pointers: Panther Valley - Blasko 2, Markovich 2, Mikovich 1; Lehighton - Rossino 1, Barclay 1, Fital 1.