To say the Mountain Valley Conference clash between Lehighton and Pocono Mountain East on Friday night was exciting would be an understatement. The game featured multiple momentum swings, technical and intentional fouls, on-court tussles, and most importantly a good basketball game. Lehighton gave the Cardinals all they could handle, but in the end Pocono Mountain East edged the Indians 54-50 for the MVC victory.
The reason for the Indians (1-14) success came from their match-up zone that gave the Cardinals (5-9) problems throughout the night. Pocono Mountain East looked confused at times and often settled for long jumpers.
"We settled for way too many jump shots early on," said Cardinals coach Patrick Heaton. "We needed to work the ball inside to our bigger guys and we also had to be more aggressive attacking their match-up zone. Give Lehighton credit though, because they executed their defense great tonight."
Lehighton coach Rich Oertner was also pleased with the way his team held the more athletic Cardinals at bay for the majority of the game.
"We played our match-up really nice tonight," said Oertner. "We confused them and we got them to take some outside shots, which is what we wanted to happen. The kids deserve a lot of credit for the way they played defense."
The fireworks began in the second half when the Cardinals Ryan Sickler committed an intentional foul on Lehighton forward Jacen Nalesnik. Nalesnik then retaliated and received a technical foul for his misconduct. The energy of the game definitely picked up after the foul exchange and carried over into the fourth quarter.
The Indians, who hung around all evening long challenged the Cardinals at every turn in the final quarter. Lehighton closed within two numerous times throughout the frame, but just couldn't get the bucket they needed to tie the ball game.
Lehighton made its final run with 47.4 seconds left in the fourth on a Nate Kresge jump-shot from the right elbow to bring the score to 51-49 in Pocono Mountain East's favor. A jump ball at mid-court gave the Indians the ball back with 38.7 remaining and a chance to tie, but they couldn't convert. Lehighton had the ball out-of-bounds underneath their basket and threw the ball into a host of Cardinal defenders this time being on the wrong side of a jump ball. The Cardinals converted their free throws down the stretch and escaped Lehighton with a four-point win.
"It's good for the kids to be in these types of games," said Oertner. "In order to get better we have to be in games and tonight I think we got better. It's tough in this league because they're so many talented teams that sometimes your not in games. I'd like to see us pull some of these close games out, but I'm not disappointed in the guys effort at all."
Jok Asiyo led Pocono Mountain East with 13 points. Nate Kresge scored a game-high 20 points for Lehighton.
Asiyo 5-3-4-13, Yarosh 3-0-0-9, Harris 5-1-2-11, Wheeler 0-0-0-0, Garcia 3-4-8-10, Gleason 0-0-0-0, Hams 2-0-0-4, Clarke 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 21-8-14-54.
A. Rossino 0-0-0-0, Farano 4-0-0-9, Kresge 6-6-7-20, D. Rossino 3-1-5-7, Guym 1-2-4-4, Crum 0-0-0-0, Nalesnik 3-4-6-10. TOTALS: 17-13-20-50.
P.M. East 12 14 15 13 - 54
Lehighton 9 18 8 15 - 50
Three-pointers: PME - Yarosh 3, Clarke 1. L - Kresge 2, Farano 1.