Similar to their first meeting back on December 30, Tamaqua baited North Schuylkill in with a dominant first half and had the Spartans right where they wanted them at halftime.
Then, just like last time, as soon as the Blue Raiders were ready to reel them in and catch a huge League win, they let them off the hook with a disastrous third quarter, which resulted in North Schuylkill escaping with a 54-48 Schuylkill League Division I victory.
Tamaqua led by as many as seven points (18-11) late in the first quarter before North Schuylkill began chipping away at the lead. A 6-2 Spartans run over the final four minutes of the second quarter eventually brought the North Schuylkill deficit to just two points (26-24) at intermission.
That's when things turned from bad to worse for the Blue Raiders.
Tamaqua began the third quarter missing its first eight shots from the field, as North Schuylkill took advantage by making five of its first seven shots to begin the second half. With an 11-0 run, the Spartans turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 35-26 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"When we've had success this year, we've always come out of the gate strong to start the second half. Obviously, tonight, that didn't happen," stated Tamaqua head coach Caszy Kosciolek. "Give North Schuylkill credit, they turned up the heat on us defensively and forced us into a lot of empty possessions in the second half."
However, Tamaqua would not go away quietly, as Bo Rottet and Zach Wargula began to spark a Raiders comeback. The junior tandem combined for 20 of Tamaqua's 22 second half points.
With Tamaqua trailing 45-38, a Rottet three-pointer trimmed the deficit to four points with 3:40 left. A second Rottet trey (his third of the quarter and fourth of the game) brought Tamaqua to within one point (47-46) with 2:11 on the clock.
Following Jake Damiter's two free throws, which increased the Spartans lead to three points, a Rottet deuce once again closed the gap to within one (49-48) with 1:48 left.
"We have a bunch of gamers on this team. Even if we play poorly at times, we always seem to find a way to fight back," added Kosciolek. "I thought we got all we possibly could out of the kids tonight. They expended all of their energy mounting that fourth quarter comeback to get the game to within a point and we simply ran out of gas at the end."
Trailing 49-48 following a Spartans turnover, Tamaqua had a chance seize momentum and take the lead, but a turnover thwarted the opportunity and North Schuylkill's Tevin Murray sank a bucket on the other end to put the lead back at three points. Tamaqua would go on to miss its last four shots (all from Bo Rottet) from the field, and the Spartans converted on three of their six free throws attempts to close out the victory.
GAMES NOTES: Rottet scored a game high 20 points, including four three-points, while Wargula netted a season-high 19 points for Tamaqua.
For North Schuylkill (8-4, 5-2), Matt Manbeck led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Tamaqua shot 18-of-50 from the field, while the Spartans connected on 50-percent of their shots (17-of-34).
The Raiders (9-5, 3-4) outrebounded North Schuylkill 30-26 and committed one more turnover than the Spartans (14-13).
Having missed the last three games (and probably the next three) with a concussion, Tamaqua is hoping for Brett Kosciolek (18.64 points per game) to return to the starting lineup next Saturday at Palmerton.
In the JV game, Tamaqua recorded a 52-46 victory behind 17 points and five three-pointers from Austin Zwolenik.
Marlow 0-0-0-0, Hillibish 3-0-0-8, Murray 2-3-8-7, Mazur 0-0-0-0, Manbeck 7-2-3-18, Damiter 3-5-10-11, Mazeika 0-0-0-0, Karlonis 0-2-2-2, Jordan 2-4-6-8. TOTALS: 17-16-29-54.
Blaker 0-0-0-0, Wargula 6-5-5-19, Miller 1-0-0-2, Rottet 8-0-0-20, Frantz 0-0-0-0, Tr. Skripko 0-1-2-1, MacDonald 1-0-0-2, Marcin 0-0-0-0, Ty. Skripko 2-0-0-4, Van Buskirk 0-0-0-0, Ch. Hartung 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-6-7-48.
N. Schuylkill 13 11 16 14 - 54
Tamaqua 19 7 5 17 -48
Three-Pointers: North Schuylkill - Hillibish 2, Manbeck 2; Tamaqua - Rottet 4, Wargula 2.