Both coaches agreed the first quarter was the key to the game.
If you asked any of the fans in the stands, I am sure 'stunned' would be the reaction to what they saw in the opening period. But If anyone left the Northern Lehigh gym early, they missed a great finish.
Using a 17-0 first quarter advantage, the Bulldog boys basketball team held off a furious comeback to defeat Jim Thorpe 49-44 in non-league competition Saturday night.
Tyler Dibillio (12 points) drained a pair of three-pointers and sophomore Josh Landsberger came off the bench to add four more first quarter points. Meanwhile, the Olympians could not find the bottom of the net or a rebound as Luke Peirce, Caleb Johnson, and Landsberger had total control of the boards. Even a time out from Olympian coach Brian Carroll could not stem the tide.
"Northern Lehigh's plays a good 3-2 zone and are well coached," Carroll said "We talked about being patient, moving the ball, and attacking their zone. We didn't do that. It was one pass and bomb the three. That allowed their size to take over. We didn't give ourselves a chance to rebound."
A Darius Clark breakaway basket with 6:43 left in the second quarter provided the first points for the Olympians. Another Bulldog turnover after additional sloppy play got an angry call for a timeout by Northern Lehigh coach Jeff Miller.
"I think (the lead) was a good thing and a bad thing. It was good we were up 17-0 and it was bad because we got lackadaisical," Miller said. "We can't afford to do that. We are not good enough to play sloppy like that. Thorpe generates a lot of their offense off of their defense. We turned the ball over and let them back into the game."
Thorpe (5-6) capitalized on the change of momentum. Clark sank 10 of his team high 14 points while Dane Ciavarella and Robert Freeman drained threes allowing the Olympians to cut the deficit to 28-16 at halftime
"We started to move the ball and take the extra pass and we finally had some guys hit jump shots," Carroll said. "The team defense harassing the ball got them rattled and got us some turnovers."
The Bulldogs (8-1) went back to the basics in the third quarter, getting the ball low to Pierce who led all scorers with 15 points.
"We tried to run our offense and pound it inside to Luke and Caleb to take advantage of our size and we were able get some baskets," Miller said.
Midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs held an 18-point advantage, 40-22. All they needed to do was control the ball and hit some foul shots and walk away with an easy win. But It was anything but easy.
Freeman (10 points) and Ciavarella (11 points) combined for 13 points in the fourth quarter and P.J. Johnson was active on the defensive end, creating several turnovers
The Bulldogs hit a dismal 3-for-10 stretch from the foul line which ultimately allowed the Olympians to get back in the game. A Ciavarella tap in and a Freeman fast break basket cut the lead to 46-43 with 1:55 remaining.
With a chance to cut the lead to one, Johnson stole the ball again and drove to the basket but his pass to an open Khaaliq Lynch under the basket just missed its mark.
"Because of the energy we exerted to get back in the game, it may have caused us to miss a foul shot, a put back, or a jump shot because we were tired," Carroll said.
"Cool hand" Luke Pierce sank both ends of a one-and-one with 14.3 second left to finally ice the game for Northern Lehigh.
Moore 0-0-0-0, Ciavarella 5-0-0-11, Freeman 4-0-0-10, Brown 0-0-0-0,Clark 5-4-7-14, Johnson 2-0-4-4, Harleston 0-0-0-0, Lynch 1-0-0-2, Ennis1-0-0-3. Totals 18-4-11-44.
Dibilio 4-2-4-12, J. Pristash 1-0-0-2, Glose 3-2-5-8, Johnson 2-0-3-4,Pierce 6-3-5-15, George 0-0-0-0, Landsberger 2-1-2-5, Eden 1-0-0-3, Shupp 0-0-0-0. Totals 19-8-19-49.
Jim Thorpe 0 16 12 14 - 44
Northern Lehigh 17 11 14 7 - 49
Three-pointers: - JT - Freeman 2, Ciavarella 1; NL - Dibilio 2, Eden 1.