It's always encouraging to see a group of players get better over the years.

Panther Valley's group of seniors made huge strides since they struggled mightily in their junior high days, having the opportunity to qualify for districts with a win over Tamaqua on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Panther Valley, Tamaqua had their own agenda and not to mention a very good 6-8 player on their side, as they defeated Panther Valley on the road 59-40.

The undersized Panther Valley team lived and died by the three-pointer all season long and last night's game was no different. Panther Valley senior Jake Szczecina kept the Panthers in striking distance at intermission as he totaled 18 points in the contest, but Brett Kosciolek and the Tamaqua offense proved to be too much to handle for PV.

Kosciolek was able to take advantage of the smaller Panther squad. He had a great all-around performance as he totaled 22 points and 15 reboundsa night which included his 1,000th career point late in the fourth quarter.

"I've been coaching almost three decades. It's been great coaching him, but it's been tough coaching him as well," said Tamaqua head coach Caszy Kosciolek. "I'm going to look back and know it was a great experience. My assistant coach JC Dietz has done a great job throughout Brett's career motivating and teaching him. Brett truly makes everyone around him a better basketball player."

Kosciolek got more offensive help from Bo Rottet and Russell Blaker. The two Tamaqua guards combined for 29 Raider points.

Blaker, a sophomore, has made some huge strides this season.

"He's really coming on as another scoring threat for our team," Kosciolek explained. "Russell is really fun to watch. He has a great handle, he can penetrate, he can pass, and he can now finish around the bucket."

Taking care of the ball offensively and playing sound perimeter defense is what made Tamaqua successful on the night. Tamaqua held Panther Valley to just five of 35 shooting from the floor in the first three quarters.

"We've never passed the ball as well as we did tonight. You combine that with our defensive effort and you can tell I have a smart group of kids."

Even though the season is officially over for Panther Valley, coach Patrick Crampsie is extremely proud of this group of kids.

"This senior class had a rough time back when they were playing in junior high," said Crampsie. "This group of kids came such a long way. They worked so hard to be competitive at this point. The worst part about tonight isn't losing to Tamaqua and missing playoffs, it's not being able to spend a few more weeks with these kids.

"These kids gave us an opportunity to play a very competitive season right to the bitter end. We're going to miss being around these six seniors.."

Tamaqua closes the regular season Saturday at Palmerton.

"Tonight wasn't an easy environment for the kids to play in," said Kosciolek. "Panther Valley is a good team who is very well coached. I'm proud of my team for coming out of the gates and effectively executing our game plan. This team is very unselfish and extremely fun to be around."

TAMAQUA

Blaker 5-0-0-11, Miller 0-0-0-0, Rottet 6-3-4-18, Frantz 1-0-0-2, Tr. Skripko 0-1-2-1, MacDonald 0-0-0-0, Marcin 0-0-0-0 Ty. Skripko 1-3-4-5, Kosciolek 10-0-0-22, Murphy 0-0-0-0, Hartung 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-7-10-59.

PANTHER VALLEY

Dubosky 0-0-0-0, Szczecina 5-5-5-18, Keo 0-0-0-0, Kusko 1-1-2-4, Micholik, 0-0-0-0, Stano 1-0-0-3, Owens 0-0-0-0, Hudicka 0-0-0-0, Ferryman 3-4-5-11, Nase 0-0-0-0, Vermillion 0-2-2-2, Horan 0-0-0-0, Weng 0-0-0-0, Miller 0-2-2-2. TOTALS: 10-14-16-40.

Tamaqua 20 12 16 11 - 59

Panther Vy. 8 10 4 18 - 40

Three-pointers: T - Kosciolek 2, Blaker 1; PV - Szczecina 3, Stano 1, Kusko 1, Ferryman 1.