At this point in the basketball season, teams are either playing for a playoff spot or playing for pride.
In Saturday's non-league match-up between Panther Valley and Palmerton, the Panthers were the team needing the win for a spot in the District Eleven playoffs, while the Blue Bombers are mathematically out of the playoffs, but still have plenty of reason to go hard.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Pat Crampsie-led Panthers pulling out the much-needed victory, 65-57, keeping their hopes of a post-season berth alive.
"We were 4-7 a couple of weeks ago," Crampsie admits. "We told the kids that we needed to realistically go 7-4 against the meat of our schedule in order to get into the post-season. The kids have responded and now, we need one more win to get in."
PV plays Tamaqua tonight and hopes to get the accomplishment out of the way.
"We're in the position that we can hopefully get the job done," Crampsie reiterated. "The kids played really well tonight and I'm proud of their effort."
The victors used their inside game against a smaller Palmerton line up and Nate Mathewson and Brock Mitchell combined for more than half of their team's total. The hot hand of sharp-shooting sophomore Jake Szczecina (five treys) helped the Panthers pull out the win.
"Our goal was to pound the ball inside to Nate (Mathewson) and Brock (Mitchell), and I thought we did that well," Crampsie said. "Those two played huge. They kept battling and fighting down low and it payed off."
Early on, though, both teams' offenses were sputtering. After the first quarter, the score was tied, 11-11. Stephen Romanchik, who finished the night with 10 points, scored four to lead the Panthers, while Kyle Ruch had seven to keep the Bombers in it.
In the second quarter, the momentum was still stagnant, when Logan Lesher's strong take tied the game at 19-19 with 3:40 to go. However, that's when the biggest run of the game took place, as the Panthers ran off 10 straight to take a 29-19 lead. Matt Leaver's trey at the buzzer for the Bombers made it 29-21 at the break.
"We were happy being up eight at half," Crampsie admitted. "I think Jake (Szczecina)'s threes in the first half loosened us up a little bit."
After the break, the Panthers (9-10 overall, 3-7 league), outscore the Bombers, 19-10, ballooning their lead to 48-31. In that frame, Szczecina had nine, while Mathewson added six. Palmerton got four from Tyler Svetik.
In the fourth quarter, the Palmerton long-distance plan went into effect, as it connected for seven threes, sparking a comeback effort that eventually fell just short.
"You have to give (Palmerton) credit," Crampsie commended. "They got in the passing lanes, made things happen defensively and we expected a very tough game against them. Their record may not be the best, but Coach Stefanek has them up, motivated and battling each night for pride."
"This was a playoff-type game for (Panther Valley) and they know what they are playing for, while we are playing for pride," PHS head coach Mick Stefanek admitted afterwards. "The kids have been playing hard down the stretch and they have a lot of heart. This one just came down to the fact that we didn't have an answer for Mitchell and Mathewson inside. But we didn't quit and I'm proud of the kids."
In the game, PV got a game-high 19 from Mathewson, while Mitchell and Szczecina chipped in 15 apiece. Teammate Stephen Romanchik added ten for a strong team effort.
For Palmerton (3-17 overall, 1-13 league), Ruch led the way with 14, while Leaver and Brett Snyder had 12 each.
In the JV contest, the Panthers prevailed with a 58-54 win in overtime, as Jake Szczecina led all scorers with 20 and teammate Kyle Ferryman had 19. Palmerton got 17 from Nick Frey in the losing effort.
King 0-1-2-1, Szczecina 5-0-0-15, McArdle 0-0-0-0, Ogozalek 1-0-0-3, Romanchik 3-4-6-10, Dalessio 1-0-1-2, Mathewson 8-3-4-19, Mitchell 7-1-6-15. TOTALS: 25-9-19-65.
Svetik 3-2-2-8, Snyder 4-0-0-12, Leaver 5-0-0-12, Ruch 4-3-5-14, Lesher 3-0-0-7, Leon 1-0-0-2, Geist 1-0-0-2, Quinn 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-5-7-57.
Panther Vy. 11 18 19 17 - 65
Palmerton 11 10 10 26 - 57
Three pointers: PV - Szczecina 5, Ogozalek 1; P - Snyder 4, Ruch 3, Leaver 2, Lesher 1.