The determination and will power to never quit and keep fighting to the end of a contest is a quality every coach wants to see in their team.
The Lehighton boys' basketball team entered its battle with East Stroudsburg North with a 1-16 record overall, but that didn't stop the Indians from putting on a display of "never say die" attitude, as they fought back from deficits the entire game before falling just short in overtime, 66-63.
The most impressive fight came with about two and a half minutes remaining in regulation with ES North holding a 56-49 lead. The Indians managed to go on a 7-0 run to end the game, drawing even at 56-all to send the Mountain Valley Conference to an extra session.
"We had a chance to win it at the end of regulation," Lehighton head coach Rich Oertner said. "We're getting better and better, though and it's part of the learning curve. Down the stretch, we hustled and fought hard to get back in it."
In the overtime period, the victors outscored Lehighton 10-7, including four points from Josh Ortiz inside, to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"This game was big for us," ES North coach Kevin Kennedy said. "We needed this badly. We're in the midst of a stretch of games that I thought were winnable and this one was tough. We're glad we came out with the win."
Early on in the game, it looked like it was going to be over quickly, as East Stroudsburg North went up 11-2. Lehighton wouldn't be denied on this night as it fought back to tie the game at 16-all at the end of the first.
Jamal Fort poured in nine to lead the T'Wolves, while DJ Rossino matched that amount in the same session.
In the second, the winners started out with a 8-0 run. But, led by Jacen Nalesnik, with four, the Indians battled back to trailed by four at intermission, 31-27.
"We beat them pretty badly the first time we played up at our place," Kennedy recalled. "But I've been watching their results and seeing that they've been improving as the season has gone on. I knew not to expect the same type of game."
Leading 37-33 midway through the third, Lehighton put together runs of 7-0 and 5-0 to take the lead after three, 43-42.
ES North (7-10 overall, 4-5 MVC) took control early in the fourth quarter, building a 53-45 lead.
"We still have been making some mental mistakes down the stretch and tonight was the same thing," Oertner said. "We hustled and fought well to get back into it, but I think the turnovers and mistakes did us in."
Individually, the winners were led by Will Quiles' 18 points.
Lehighton got a game-high 19 from James Farano, 15 from DJ Rossino, 13 from Nate Kresge and 10 from Nalesnik.
The JV game was close, as well, as ESN pulled out a 57-56 win despite Tyler Crum's 22 and Jordan Knappenberger's 15 for the Indians.
EAST STROUDSBURG NORTH
Fort 5-3-6-15, Bobb 2-3-6-7, Bitik 0-0-0-0, Ortiz 5-2-4-12, Mills 5-1-2-14, Quiles 6-6-8-18, Anamege 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-15-26-66.
A. Rossino 0-1-2-1, Farano 7-2-2-19, Kresge 4-4-4-13, D. Rossino 5-4-6-15, Guyn 1-1-1-3, Crum 1-0-0-2, Nalesnik 3-4-5-10. TOTALS: 21-16-20-63.
ES North 16 15 11 14 10 - 66
Lehighton 16 11 16 13 7 - 63
Three pointers: ESN - Mills 3, Fort 2; L - Farano 3, D. Rossino 1, Kresge 1.