Jim Thorpe girls' basketball team turned a 'monster' loose Saturday night in Martz Hall, Pottsville.
That monster helped the Lady Olympians power their way to a 52-44 win over Blue Mountain for the Schuylkill League Division 1 championship.
That monster was Chelsea Smelas.
Smelas doesn't look like a monster. She's pretty, she's articulate, and she's congenial.
But against Blue Mountain, she turned into a monster, especially under the boards. Just ask her.
"We knew we had to be tough under the boards," said Smelas. "We played them twice [earlier this season] and that's where they hurt us; that was our weakness."
She added, "We had to step it up, for myself, for my team, and be a monster under the boards. And it was such an amazing feeling to come out with a win tonight."
Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac shared those thoughts.
"I can't speak enough of the job Smelas did on the boards for us tonight," he said. "We're so undersized compared to Blue Mountain."
He remarked, "Our biggest key when we play Blue Mountain is if we rebound, we win. We rebounded tonight and Chelsea was a terror on the boards.
Smelas had 10 of her team's 24 total rebounds. What she did that was so painful to Blue Mountain was that she prevented second shots. Eight of those rebounds were defensive.
Of course, the Olympians' leading scorer - Celeste Robinson - also had a major role in the victory. She scored 22 points, including 13 of her team's 15 in the fourth quarter.
Smelas was second in scoring, netting 15 points which were spread out throughout the game.
"Again, Celeste is an all-state basketball player," said Kovac, "and one of the top players in the area and one of the top players in the state, and you know, we expect that of her to take over games a little bit. And, she certainly did that tonight."
This was the third meeting for the Olympians and the Blue Eagles. On Jan. 3, both teams were unbeaten with Blue Mountain winning 41-35. On Jan. 27, the Olympians avenged that defeat, topping the Eagles 44-41.
Celeste said she was looking forward to the rubber match.
"I think they're a great club and I love playing great teams," she said. "It was such a great win. Everybody came to play tonight."
While "team effort" sounds like a cliche, that's exactly what the formula was for winning the game Kovac said.
"To bounce back after Friday's disappointing loss to Tamaqua, and to come out and play the kind of quality effort we had tonight, it speaks volumes about the resilence in our locker room, and the kind of heart these kids have. No matter what these kids do in life, the way they attacked tonight's basketball game, they're going to be successful."
The Olympians held the lead from start to finish.
Lawrence made the first field attempt of the night, that three-point corner shot, and the Lady Olympians never relinquished the grip. The basket gave Lawrence the distinction of being the school's all-time leading three-point scorer.
By the end of the first quarter, Blue Mountain came within one, trailing 9-8.
In period two, Jim Thorpe outscored its opponent 15-4, and led by 12 points at the break.
The Lady Eagles rallied briefly in the fourth quarter, closing to within 41-37. Quickly, though, the Olympians used their agressiveness to pull ahead by 10 points and were never threatened again.
The Schuylkill League semifinal matchups are now set. On Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Jim Thorpe will oppose Marian. In the opener of the doubleheader at 6 p.m., Blue Mountain plays Minersville.
McElmoyle 1-0-0-3, Batts 1-0-0-2, Lawrence 2-0-2-6, Robinson 9-4-5-22, Mosteller 2-0-0-4, Smelas 6-3-5-15. TOTALS: 21-7-12-52.
Kerns 2-0-0-5, Koch 4-2-2-11, Grapsy 1-3-3-5, Starr 2-0-2-4, Shpakovsky 0-0-0-0, Schu 5-0-0-10, Moyer 0-0-0-0, Fisher 4-1-2-9. TOTALS: 18-6-9-44.
Jim Thorpe 9 15 13 15 - 52
Blue Mountain 8 4 18 14 - 44
Three pointers: Jim Thorpe - Lawrence 2, McElmoyle 1; Blue Mountain - Kerns 1, Koch 1.