Often in basketball the outcome of a game between two talented opponents can come down to one moment.
That moment on Tuesday night happened to be when Jim Thorpe senior Jeanna McEmoyle stepped up to the free-throw line. The Thorpe senior had a chance to give her team a three-point cushion heading into the finals seconds of a Division 1 battle against Pine Grove.
McEmoyle no doubt made the best of the moment icing the contest with two free-throws and Jim Thorpe closed out the Schuylkill League contest against the Cardinals with a 45-40 victory.
Jim Thorpe (19-2) was frustrated by the Pine Grove defense early going down as much as 13 in the first quarter. The Cardinals (14-7) had a game-plan to take away Thorpe's three main contributors in Celeste Robinson, Chelsea Smelas, and Kristin Lawrence and make the other Thorpe players beat them.
"We've seen defenses like this all season long," said Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac. "We actually call it the "Nina defense" (Batts) because they're going to help off of her, close out on Lawrence, and double Robinson and Smelas. Our movement was just very poor and I think we played the first quarter without even setting one screen."
Jim Thorpe's full-court pressure defense much like it has all season got them right back into the game and Pine Grove's 15-2 lead dwindled to five mid-way through the second quarter. A Celeste Robinson field goal with 14.1 seconds remaining in the quarter tied it at 25 all and then a Chelsea Smelas drive to the hoop off an in-bound pass gave the Lady Olympians a two-point advantage.
"After we got down early there was a loose ball and we didn't come up with it," said Kovac. "I called a quick time-out and that was probably the first time I snapped all year. I don't know how much that had to do with us getting back into the game, but we looked like vintage Jim Thorpe in the second quarter."
The Lady Olympians came out of the half much like they started the first, letting Pine Grove dictate the tempo of the ball game, and found themselves down 34-29 with three minutes left in the third. Jim Thorpe surged back once again and a Robinson steal and bucket gave them a one-point lead heading into the fourth.
"We tried putting our foot on the pedal everytime we got a lead on them, but a mistake here and there and they would always get back into it," said Pine Grove coach Chris George. "We did a good job of handling their pressure, but we just turned the ball over too many times in the half-court. We also struggled stopping them in transition and plain and simple when Robinson gets the ball in the open floor or around the basket she's finishing."
The back and forth action didn't let up in the final quarter and the Olympians once again were behind, trailing 39-37 with a little over three minutes remaining. Two Pine Grove turnovers gave Thorpe the ammo they needed to fire back at the Cardinals. A Batts steal that led to a Lawrence finish, followed by a Chelsea Smelas lay-up gave Thorpe a two-point lead. The Cards had a few opportunities to tie up the game, but it was no dice as the Olympians continued their run towards the Division 1 title with the narrow victory.
Robinson tallied a game-high 20 points, while Smelas and McElmoyle each added 10 for Thorpe.
Smith 2-0-0-4, Sampson 3-0-1-6, Thompson 4-0-0-9, Evans 3-1-2-9, Zimmerman 1-0-0-2, Geiger 2-0-0-4, Dimon 1-0-0-2, Bertasavage 2-0-0-4. TOTALS: 18-1-3-40.
McEmoyle 3-2-2-10, Batts 0-1-2-1, Lawrence 1-0-0-2, Robinson 9-2-4-20, Mosteller 1-0-0-2, Smelas 5-0-2-10, Ennis 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-5-10-45.
Pine Grove 17 8 11 4 - 40
Jim Thorpe 7 20 10 8 - 45
Three-pointers: PG - Evans 2, Thompson 1; JT - McEmoyle 1.