The Jim Thorpe boys' basketball team had not been playing to its potential as of late.
After losing games to North Schuylkill and Northern Lehigh this past weekend, the Olympians finally got back on track Monday night.
Forwards Rashid Epps and Corey Cinciola combined to score 47 points and helped lead Jim Thorpe to a 79-61 victory over non-league foe Lehighton. Although they were sloppy at times, the Olympians (8-3, 3-1) scored at least 20 points in three of four quarters and went on to win big thanks to a lopsided second quarter.
"We pretty much wanted to harass Lehighton in the full court," said Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll. "We felt that their ball handling was a little suspect. We thought that if we could speed up the game which is to our liking then we could take advantage of their mistakes.
"On top of that, we wanted to force them into shots that they weren't comfortable taking. Once we did that we wanted to crash the boards both offensively and defensively because of our size advantage. I thought we did a good job of that tonight."
Epps' size turned out to be the difference in the game. The Olympians' do-everything big man scored a career-high 30 points, with most of them coming on offensive put-backs.
"My main job is to basically rebound," said Epps. "Corey was missing some layups, which he doesn't usually do, so I just tried to be there behind him.
"This was definitely a rebound game for us. We needed to get our confidence back. We lost two in a row and we needed to get back on track. This should help us moving forward as we prepare to face some tougher teams down the road."
Although the Indians (0-9, 0-4) are winless on the year, they played Jim Thorpe tough in three of the four quarters. The game was tied at 16 after the first quarter of play thanks to the Indians connecting on three three-pointers.
Unfortunately, the second quarter was their undoing. Six different Olympians got in the books as they went on to outscore Lehighton 20-5.
"We were sloppy in the first quarter and I was disappointed with that," said Carroll. "But give Lehighton credit. They shot the ball well tonight. They shot it better than I have seen them shoot it in the past.
"I just think they started missing some shots and we were able to turn it up defensively. We were a little lackadaisical in the first, but I think we got refocused in the second and really put some pressure on them."
Lehighton's high man was JT Keer with 15 points. Keer scored 11 in the second half and had three triples on the night. DJ Rossino (14), Nate Kresge (11) and Heath Markley (10) also hit double figures. All three connected on at least two three-pointers as well. As a team, the Indians converted on 11 three-point attempts.
Carroll felt Monday night's win was just what his team needed.
"I am glad we had another game today," admitted Carroll. "We had lost two tough games and rather than have a practice I thought it was best that we could come out and play another game.
"Although Lehighton is down this year, I think it helped us to come out and win like we did. It will help us get ready for our big one on Friday (Pottsville)."
Hill 2-0-2-4, Keer 5-2-4-15, Rossino 5-2-2-14, Kresge 4-0-0-11, Markley 4-0-0-10, Guyn 0-0-0-0, Matika 2-0-0-4, Szacska 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 23-4-8-61.
Green 0-0-0-0, DiBonifazio 2-0-0-5, Mickens 1-0-0-2, Moranta 0-0-0-0, Moore 1-0-0-2, Lux 2-2-2-6, Epps 14-2-4-30, Ciavarella 2-0-0-5, Cinicola 8-1-2-17, Richardson 3-0-0-6, Johnson 2-0-0-4, Clark 0-2-4-2. TOTALS: 35-7-12-79.
Lehighton 16 5 20 20 - 61
Jim Thorpe 16 20 20 23 - 79
Three-Pointers: Lehighton - Keer 3, Kresge 3, Rossino 2, Markley 2, Szacska 1; Jim Thorpe - DiBonifazio 1, Ciavarella 1.