There are three attributes that can give a basketball player a distinct advantage when the game is on the line.
Experience, skilled ball handling, and the ability to hit free throws under pressure.
Palmerton's Jade Farquhar has the ball handling and clutch shooting down, but the experience is one trait she does not possess. However, the freshman never showed signs of her young age and carried the Bombers on her back in the fourth quarter. Farquhar scored seven points in the frame and propelled Palmerton to a 44-39 District 11 AAA first round victory over Tamaqua.
The game featured two very hot ball clubs coming in and matched the speed and quickness of the Raiders vs. the size and toughness of the Bombers. Palmerton's Kelsey Hay backed up her team's reputation patrolling the middle for the Bombers all evening long.
The Raider guards got to the basket anytime they wanted, but Hay was waiting and she took advantage, blocking eight shots on the night.
"She really did a good job for us tonight," said Palmerton coach Don Delich. "To be honest we have come to expect that from her now. Not just on defense either with her shot blocking ability, but in all aspects of the game."
Hay didn't disappoint and despite a poor night from the foul-line (8-16) still led her team in scoring with 16 points and was a force on the boards. The size of Palmerton was a huge concern for Tamaqua coming in and coach Joe Berezwick showed those concerns with the Raiders defensive scheme. Tamaqua, who usually plays a straight up man-to-man style went to the full-court 2-2-1 zone press and 2-3 zone defense in the half-court to try and keep the Palmerton bigs from slipping inside.
The Raiders pressure paid off forcing the Bombers to turn it over 17 times, but the turnovers only came in certain spurts and Berezwick explained he thought they would get more out of their full-court pressure.
"What people may not know about us is that we have went to the 2-3 a few times this year so it wasn't something totally new we were trying to do," said Berezwick. "We thought we would get more out of our pressure, but you have to credit Palmerton for handling it."
The Bombers chance at victory wasn't looking all that good mid-way through the fourth quarter. Tamaqua had a 37-31 lead with 4:40 remaining and a trio of guards in Kayla Hope, Maria Streisel, and Christine Streisel that have been as solid as anybody in District 11 this season.
The Bombers trudged on however, and after a quick exchange of buckets Palmerton closed within four with 3:25 left. Then came the biggest shot of the night from who else but the Palmerton freshman Farquhar who drained a three on the left wing to bring the Bombers within one. Farquhar once again showed her heroics when she was fouled on a drive to the basket, hitting both her free throw attempts and giving Palmerton a one-point lead that they would never relinquish.
"That shot by Jade (Farquhar) was huge and was the critical play of the entire night," said Delich. "She's going to be a super player and to be a freshman and hit those type of pressure free-throws in a playoff atmosphere says a lot about the player she is and the player she's going to be."
Farquhar finished with 13 points for the Bombers.
Kayla Hope scored 11 and Christine Streisel added 10 for Tamaqua.
Palmerton will now head to Northampton on Saturday night to play No. 1 seeded Allentown Central Catholic at 7:30 p.m. in the District 11 quarterfinals.
Ma. Mummey 1-0-0-2, Farquhar 4-4-4-13, Mo. Mummey 3-2-3-8, Meinhart 1-0-0-2, Eaton 1-0-0-2, Snyder 0-1-4-1, Hay 4-8-16-16. TOTALS:14-15-27-44.
Hope 5-0-0-11, Trainer 0-0-0-0, Kabilko 0-0-0-0, M. Streisel 4-2-3-10, C. Streisel 3-0-0-7, Valasek 3-0-0-6, A. Solt 1-3-4-5. TOTALS: 16-57-39.
Palmerton 4 16 9 15 - 44
Tamaqua 9 8 16 6 - 39
Three-pointers: P - Farquhar 1; Hope 1, C. Streisel.