There aren't too many instances today that you see a coach return to the bench after being away from the game for 15 years.
Rodney Strohl did just that when he returned as head mentor of the Palmerton Lady Bombers when Don Delich stepped down at the end of last season.
Strohl might not have been drawing up offenses and defenses during those years, but he stayed close to the game and the Palmerton program running the clock and keeping score when needed.
"I'm enjoying myself," Strohl said during a time where Mother Nature hasn't cooperated, not only with games, but practices being cancelled because of the weather. "It doesn't seem like the game has changed that much. A lot of the coaches haves changed and some schools have new gyms, but for the most part you have to be ready for what every opponent throws at you."
Strohl feels like he's the new guy on the block so he has to take a good look at what the teams are going to throw at him. On the other hand, coaches don't know what to expect from him the first time they play either.
In his first stint coaching the Lady Bombers back in the late 90's, he had a team that was a regular in the league and district playoffs. The 1996-97 team was so good that it reached the PIAA Class AA Eastern Final where it fell to District 3 powerhouse Trinity at Martz Hall in Pottsville by a 50-40 score.
The Lady Bombers rolled through the regular season unbeaten that year and went on to defeat Notre Dame of Green Pond and Southern Lehigh to win the Colonial League title. They continued their winning ways defeating Pine Grove and Notre Dame again to win the district title.
Wins over Upper Dauphin, Villa Joseph Marie and Elco set up the showdown with Trinity.
When the dust cleared, the Lady Bombers finished with a 31-1 record, set a school record for playing the most games in a season and for most wins in a season. They were the third team in school history and first girls team to reach the Eastern Final.
Seniors Nicole Levandusky, Cori Rehus and Sue Fabian co-captained the team and individual accomplishments were also made. Levandusky became the all-time scorer in school history with 2,662 points. She also set a school record for most points in a game with 52 against Northern Lehigh. She was named Colonial League Most Valuable Player for the third year in a row and was sixth team all-state. Her basketball career then took her to Xavier University in Ohio and then one to a one-year stint with the LA Sparks in the WNBA.
Fabian was chosen to the Colonial League first-team, while Rehus and Amanda Samok made Colonial League honorable mention.
"You really can't compare those teams with this year's team because we had more balance back then," Strohl said. "We had Sue (Fabian) and Amanda (Samok) inside and then Nicole (Levandusky) and Marci Abel as shooting guards and Cori (Rehus) at point guard.
"This year's team doesn't have much size inside and I had to move senior Mikayla Krupa, junior Abby Reimer and junior Madison Mummey who have played guard in the past, to the inside at times during the game and they've done well."
Janel Tracy plays one guard, while Jade Farquhar, the team's leading scorer has to run the offense for the most part.
The good thing is, only Krupa graduates so the rest of the team will return next year for what could be another great season.
They aren't done yet, however, as they need one more win to qualify for the district playoffs entering a home game tonight against Catasauqua. They also find themselves still within reach of the league playoffs just one game behind.
Strohl's 1997-98 team won the Colonial League title for the third year in a row and the 1998-99 season was a rebuilding year before he turned the program over to assistant Geno Roberts.
This year, the Lady Bombers will still compete in Class AAA, but next years, they'll be back down to 2A.
That may be just what Strohl needs to find his ways at a shot at a district title. But let's see what pans out this year first.
THREE-POINT HONOR ROLL Four more TIMES NEWS area players made this week's "Three-Point Honor Roll" for their excellence beyond the arc. In last Wednesday's 48-42 win over Dieruff, Pleasant Valley's Lance Robinson came off the bench and buried a season-high six three-pointers. Two days later, Lehighton's Tyler Crum drained a season-high six treys in a 65-38 victory over Pocono Mountain East. On Monday, Tamaqua's Bo Rottet and Panther Valley's Macey Markovich both accounted for five three-point field goals apiece in losing efforts. Rottet and Markovich have now made the "Three-Point Honor Roll" (which recognizes area athletes with five or more three-pointers in a single game) multiple times this season.
HAPPY MELE Lehighton's Vince Mele had a game to remember on Friday night as the Indians downed Pocono Mountain East, 65-38. Mele led Lehighton with a season-high 28 points off of 13 made field goals. The 13 field goals in a game is tops in the TIMES NEWS coverage area this season. Tamaqua's Bo Rottet previously connected on 12 field goals (for 29 points) in a win over Jim Thorpe on January 10.
The last time an Indians' player had that many field goals in a game was Jan. 25, 2005 when Danny Miller had 13 against East Stroudsburg North. Miller had 33 points in the contest a 65-63 overtime win over East Stroudsburg North.
STRONG START On Friday night, the Marian boys basketball team began their game against Schuylkill Haven with quite a statement. The Colts opened up on a 23-0 run. Schuylkill Haven's first point of the game came off a Mike Ulsh layup with 2:35 remaining in the first half, meaning the Hurricanes were held scoreless for the first 13:25 of the contest. Marian went on to record a 49-27 victory.
FREE THROW FUNK (PART II) Last Tuesday, the Northern Lehigh boys became the first team this season to play a game without attempting a single free throw. That recognition didn't last long, as just three days later, the Weatherly boys basketball team was held without a free throw attempt in a 48-33 loss to Tri-Valley. The Wreckers have just 88 free throw attempts on the season (6.8 free throw attempts per game), which is the fewest of the 20 basketball teams in the TIMES NEWS coverage area.
HIGH FIVE In Lehighton's 68-38 non-league victory over Pen Argyl on Saturday, all five of the Indians' starters scored in double figures, which is the second time this season Lehighton's starting five has accomplished the feat. Tyler Crum scored 17 points, Anthony Rossino tallied 13 points, and James Farano, Jordan Knappenberger and Vince Mele all added 10 points apiece. The starting group accounted for 60 of Lehighton's 68 points against the Green Knights.
BUZZER BEATER Jake Szczecina saved the day for Panther Valley in Saturday's 43-42 victory over Schuylkill Haven. The Panthers were trailing 42-41 with nine seconds remaining, the Hurricanes missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with Szczecina rebounding the missed free throw. The Panther Valley senior then split a double team and drove the length of the court with time winding down. He got into the lane and got a shot off over two Schuylkill Haven defenders, which fell through the net with less than four seconds remaining to give Panther Valley the one-point victory.
CLOSE CALLS The Pleasant Valley boys basketball team is 2-5 in the Mountain Valley Conference this season, but all seven of their games have been decided by seven points or less. The Bears beat Lehighton by two points and Pocono Mountain East by seven points. In its five losses, Pleasant Valley lost to East Stroudsburg South by five points, Stroudsburg by five points, Pocono Mountain West by six points, and East Stroudsburg North (twice) by four points and one point.
TAMAQUA CONCUSSED Tamaqua's Brett Kosciolek has been sidelined the last five games with a concussion, and while the Blue Raiders were hoping to be at full strength with the impending return of their star player later this week, that now won't be the case. In Saturday's loss to Southern Lehigh, another Tamaqua starter went down to a concussion when Zach Wargula suffered a blow to the head. Wargula missed a significant amount of time last season dealing with a concussion, and the loss now leaves Tamaqua without two of its top three scorers.
41 AND COUNTING After the Northwestern girls became the first TIMES NEWS area team to clinch a District 11 playoff berth last week, the Marian girls basketball team became the second local team to punch its ticket to the postseason with a 49-18 victory over Schuylkill Haven on Thursday night. The Fillies are now 12-1 on the season and have qualified for the District 11 Class A Tournament for the 41st consecutive year.