With the game – and essentially the season – on the line, Panther Valley coach Pat Crampsie knew exactly where he wanted the ball.
Crampsie put it in the hands of senior Zach Stanko.
Stanko didn't disappoint.
With the scored tied and the clock winding down, Stanko drove to the basket and hit a short, turn around jumper to give the Panthers a 39-37 Schuylkill League victory over Tamaqua.
"There was absolutely no doubt where the ball was going on that final possession," said Crampsie. "Zach is our most experienced player and an outstanding competitor.
"In that situation, we have total confidence in his ability to make something good happen. We just wanted to put the ball in his hands and let him make a play."
Stanko did exactly that.
After a hustling offensive rebound and putback by Tamaqua's Mike Streisel tied the game at 37-37 with :44 remaining, Panther Valley wound the clock down to :13 before calling a pair of timeouts.
Stanko then inbounded the ball to Nate Mathewson and ran off a back screen to get open on the wing. Mathewson got the ball back to him with under 10 seconds remaining and he went to work.
"I'm comfortable backing my defender down and then taking the jumper over him," said Stanko. "It's a shot I've had a lot this year.
"Tonight wasn't my best shooting night. I missed a lot of peepers inside that were pretty similar to the final shot I took. But you have to remain confident and that's what I did. I was happy to have the ball in my hands at the end and I'm excited I was able to make it."
Stanko's soft shot went in with 3.4 second left, but Tamaqua still had one last chance.
Following a time out, the Raiders ran an inbounds play that allowed them to get a wide open three-pointer for Jake Fegley. Fegley's shot went halfway down, but bounced out as the buzzer sounded.
"It's our end of the quarter, end of the game play when we have to go the length of the court," explained Tamaqua coach Jay Daubert. "We work on it from time to time at practice and the kids executed it to perfection tonight.
"We got a great look and Jake's shot was right on target. It just didn't stay down."
In a game that saw both offenses struggle for long periods of time, The Panthers led by as many as nine points (15-6) early thanks to the shooting of Joe Revell, who buried three three-pointers in the opening quarter.
But the Panthers went almost seven minutes without a field goal on two different occasions during the game, allowing Tamaqua to battle back.
The Raiders eventually grabbed a 35-33 lead before Mathewson scored to tie the game with 1:54 left.
Revell and Streisel then exchanged inside buckets to set the stage for Stanko's heroics.
The victory keeps Panther Valley (9-11, 4-6) alive in its bid to qualify for the District 11 playoffs. The Panthers have two games remaining – both with Pine Grove – and must win them to qualify.
"We wanted to be playing meaningful games late in the season and that's exactly what we've been doing the last couple of weeks," said Crampsie. "This win kept us alive. Now we have Pine Grove.
"Hopefully we can build off the momentum from a dramatic win like this and play a great game tomorrow (Tuesday)."
For Tamaqua (4-17, 1-10), it was another tough loss in a season of close calls.
"We probably have had six of seven losses this season by five points or less," said Daubert. "We just haven't learned yet what it takes to turn close games into victories."
Mattewson had 15 points to lead Panther Valley. Revel and Stanko added 11 and 10 points.
Streisel and Spencer Bennett had 14 points each for Tamaqua.
Bachert 0-0-0-0, Fegley 0-0-0-0, Streisel 5-4-7-14, Bennett 3-6-6-14, Lakitsky 3-1-1-7, Kurek 0-0-0-0, Ansbach 0-0-0-0, Reinhardt 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 12-11-14-37.
Hadesty 0-0-2-0, Dunn 1-0-0-2, Stanko 3-4-4-10, McArdle 0-1-2-1, Santiago 0-0-0-0, Dalessio 0-0-0-0, Revell 4-0-1-11, Mathewson 7-0-0-15. TOTALS: 15-5-9-39.
Tamaqua 9 9 12 7 - 37
Panther Vy. 15 5 13 6 - 39
Three-pointers: T – Bennett 2. PV – Revell 3, Mathewson 1.