"We Believe" is the contagious theme of the Lehighton girls basketball team. Playing confident basketball is much different than playing without any confidence.
The night before Saturday's match up with Tamaqua, Lehighton coach Eric Gidney wrote a meaningful "thank you" message to his three seniors on the chalkboard in the locker room.
Gidney's appreciation and motivation helped propel the Lady Indians to a 33-29 non-league victory over Tamaqua, the Indians' second consecutive win.
"My three seniors chose to play basketball this season despite all of the challenges," said Gidney. "They've dealt with four coaches in four years and had to deal with a ton of losses in the past few seasons. These girls suited up this year because they believed in themselves, their peers, and their love of the game of basketball."
Tamaqua did a great job of containing Indian senior Tiff Thompson, but they couldn't keep her off the glass. The Indians are all about getting into the paint.
"I don't really change the game plan much game to game, Gidney said. "If you want to develop a consistent team, the team needs to play with the same style all the time,"
Alie Rossino hit a buzzer beating jump shot at the end of the third period to even the game up at 21-21.
Both coaches agreed that it carried some momentum in favor of Lehighton heading into the final quarter that featured four lead changes.
"Allie played great. She was aggressive when we were close to getting into the bonus," said Gidney. "She definitely doesn't shy away from the bright lights."
Gidney took a timeout with two minutes left on the clock.
"We needed a mental timeout. The girls had to take a step back and remind themselves of the situation we were in," he said. "The girls had to realize we were up by two and not have to play like we were down by a bucket."
Rossino continued to play strong in the second half, as she totaled five of the team's 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of clutch free throws with just over 30 seconds left to give Lehighton the four point cushion.
"A big part of our game plan is getting to the foul line," Gidney said. "As of two games ago, we've attempted over 350 free throws on the season."
The Raiders were relentless the entire game, as they never trailed by more than four points in the contest.
"I'm proud of the way the girls handle themselves," said Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick. "We've had several tight games like this one, but we ran out of gas at the end,"
Considering the tough season, I thought all of the girls played really well tonight. They never hang their heads and they fight until the finish. Lehighton played strong down the stretch and you have to give them a ton of credit."
Paide Demetriades led Tamaqua with 12 points.
On the defensive side of the ball, Berezwick was satisfied.
"One thing you won't see in the box score is the strong defensive play of Vanessa Solt. She did a great job guarding Thompson all night," he said. "The four juniors we have starting were in a different world in the beginning of the year. It's a difficult season, but I'm pleased with the progress these girls are making. They stay positive and work hard at practice every day. I really enjoy coaching them and I'm looking forward to going back to practice on Monday."
Rossino, 5-3-4-13, Durishon 1-0-0-2, Whiteman 0-0-0-0, Fital 4-0-3-8, Blasiak 0-0-0-0, Smith 2-0-0-5, Thompson 2-1-2-5, Rehrig 0-0-0-0, Bollinger 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-4-9-33.
Hartung 2-0-0-5, Demetriades 4-3-11-12, Wittig 3-0-2-6, Baddick 0-0-0-0, Solt 2-1-4-5, Ligenza 0-0-0-0, Pratka 0-1-2-1, McVicker 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 11-5-19-29.
Lehighton 4 8 9 12 - 33
Tamaqua 9 6 6 8 - 29
Three-pointers: Tamaqua - Demetriades 1, Hartung 1; Lehighton - Smith 1.