The effort was there for the Panther Valley boys' basketball team.

For 31 minutes, the Panthers gave North Schuylkill all it could handle.

In the final minute of play, however, the Spartans pulled away to deny Panther Valley's upset bid.

The 66-57 Schuylkill League loss means the Panthers now need to win three of their final four games to earn a District 11 playoff spot.

"The effort out on the floor was fantastic," Crampsie said. "That's what we stress to the kids giving it their all. But, right now, this one hurts. I know right now the kids are hurting, but I'm real proud of the effort tonight. North Schuylkill's good and they're one of the top teams in the league for a reason. But I thought our mindset was great. We came right at them and didn't back down.

"I think if we get that effort four more times in the last four games we'll give ourselves a shot. And, that's all we can ask for right now."

After watching the Panthers (8-10 overall; 2-7 SL) tie the game on eight occassions, build as much as a four-point lead (twice), and not fall behind by more than five points until the final minute of the game, North Schuylkill coach Curt Ziegmont was impressed.

"It's definitely not over for them," Ziegmont said. "Sure, right now, they're a little frustrated. It was one they could have had. They were right there with us, but we took it away from them in the end.

"But, they still have four games left, and I think three wins is completely doable. If those guys come out and play like this again, they can beat anybody in the league."

After sustaining a 17-point setback to the Spartans (14-4; 7-2) on the road back a few weeks ago, the Panthers showed early this game would be different.

The Panthers built a 9-5 lead midway through the first quarter. The teams battled back and forth before a three-point play by Stephen Romanchik right before half allowed PV to take a 31-30 lead into the lockers at half.

The third quarter was played on a see-saw as their were three ties and four lead changes. The Spartans took a 48-46 lead into the final frame.

Nate Mathewson fueled the Panthers' fire in the fourth by scoring five of his team-high 14 points to keep them within reach of a win.

But After Mathewson hit a left-handed lay-up with 1:09 left in the game that pulled Panther Valley to within 60-57, the Spartans used the charity stripe to their favor to pull away.

"We made a couple of miscues in key spots," said Crampsie. "A team like North Schuylkill is going to capitalize on those and they certainly did. Whether it was our turnovers, whether it was putting them on the free throw line, North Schuylkill really does a great job of doing all the little things. They're well coached and they made a few more plays than us.

"We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves though. We have to come back tomorrow and get ready for Thursday."

In addition to the nice game from Mathewson, the Panthers also got contributions from Brock Mitchell and Jake Szczecina, who scored nine points apiece, and Nick McArdle, who added eight points.

NORTH SCHUYLKILL

Hughes 0-0-0-0, Rakowsky 6-4-6-19, Motsney 1-3-4-5, Meyer 4-2-2-12, Damiter 2-0-0-4, Robbins 0-0-0-0, McClosky 8-4-5-20, Walsh 1-2-2-4, Kovach 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 23-15-19-66.

PANTHER VALLEY

Szczecina 2-3-3-9, McArdle 2-2-2-8, Ogozalek 2-0-0-5, Romanchik 2-0-0-4, Dalessio 2-0-0-4, N. Mathewson 6-2-4-14, Mitchell 4-1-1-9. TOTALS: 21-9-12-57.

No. Schuylkill 16 14 18 18 – 66

Panther Vy. 13 18 15 11 – 57

Three-pointers: NS – Rakowsky 3, Meyer 2; PV - Szczecina 2, McArdle 2, Ogozalek 1, Romanchik 1.