At the midway point of the season, Pat Crampsie's Panthers were sitting at 4-7 with the majority of the always daunting Schuylkill League Division 1 schedule still on the horizon.
Fast forward to the present. Panther Valley is now hot and at just the right time.
The Panther team from mid-January is long gone.
Monday night Panther Valley completed a season sweep of Tamaqua, gaining a 48-36 Schuylkill League victory.
The win qualified Panther Valley (11-10) for a District 11 AA playoff spot the third time in four seasons that the Panthers are headed to the postseason.
Panther Valley got to work right away on the Raiders who came out in a 2-3 zone to start the first. The Panthers hit six threes in the first half and were in control with a 23-11 advantage early in the second quarter.
"We came into the game wanting to pound the ball inside to our big-guys," said Crampsie. "The kids were hitting their outside shots early on and that helped us get out to the big lead."
The Raiders (5-16), who were obviously struggling in their zone defense switched to a man-to-man look, which got them back into the game. The Panthers lead was 10 when the Raiders switched to the man "D" and closed to within three as the teams headed in for the half.
"When they switched from zone to man defense I think we wanted to keep shooting because we were hot," said Crampsie." "We put up some quick shots and our guys just weren't getting enough low-post touches."
"I'm happy with the way our guys played defense, especially when we switched to man," said Tamaqua coach Caszy Kosciolek. "It got us back into the game and our kids did a good job of fighting. Bottom-line we got out-manned on the boards in the fourth quarter and they just shot it until they made it."
There wasn't much offense from either team in the third quarter with each squad only being able to score seven points a piece.
The fourth is where the Panthers physical and mental toughness kicked into high gear as they out-scored the Raiders 11-2 in the final frame. A reason for the PV run as Kosciolek mentioned was the Panthers dominance on the boards. Panther Valley's Brock Mitchell and Nate Mathewson were a big reason for that combining for 21 rebounds in the contest.
"I'm so proud of the mentally tough team we have become this season," said Crampsie. "We have been through a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of adversity, but the kids have welcomed the challenge all along and we're going to be a tough-out in Districts."
"If anybody deserves the privilege of making it to the post-season it's Coach Crampsie," said Kosciolek. "I have been in his position before when you first take over a program and it just seems your up against it. I don't know a person who puts more time in than him in the off-season and regular season and that's why the Panther Valley program has been successful."
Along with their solid rebounding numbers Mitchell and Mathewson led the Panthers with 18 and 15.
TIMES NEWS area scoring leader Brett Kosciolek netted 18 for the Raiders.
Szczecina 0-0-0-0, McArdle 3-1-4-9, Ogozalek 1-0-0-3, Romanchik 0-3-4-3, Dalessio 0-0-0-0, Mathewson 6-2-4-15, Mitchell 7-2-4-18. TOTALS: 17-8-16-48.
Nunemacher 0-0-0-0, Wargula 2-0-0-5, Fegley 4-0-0-9, B. Rotett 0-0-0-0, Frantz 0-0-0-0, Kosciolek 8-0-0-18, Kurek 1-0-2-2, Kehl 1-0-1-2, Krell 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-0-3-36.
Panther Valley 18 12 7 11 - 48
Tamaqua 11 16 7 2 - 36
Three-pointers: PV - McArdle 2, Mitchell 2, Ogozalek 1, Mathewson 1; T - Kosciolek 2, Wargula 1, Fegley.