Tamaqua might be the team heading to the postseason, but Panther Valley played last night's season finale against the Blue Raiders as if it was a playoff game.
With nowhere to go and nothing to lose, the Panthers turned the emotions of a long and disappointing season completely around in one night, as Panther Valley pulled off a 50-49 Schuylkill League Division 1 upset of Tamaqua.
After starting the year 2-13, the Panthers (6-16, 3-9) concluded their season by winning four of their last seven contests, but none were bigger than last night's shocker against their backyard rival, which came down to the game's final seconds.
"Unfortunately, we're not going to the playoffs this year, but we treated tonight as our playoff game," stated Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie. "We wanted to send our seniors out right and we wanted to get our underclassmen excited for the offseason.
"At times this year, we seemed to lack toughness and intensity, but we told the kids that they had an opportunity to go out there tonight and completely change that perception. Tonight was the toughest these kids have played all season and it came against a good playoff-bound team in Tamaqua. It's a big win and I'm just so proud of the effort they gave tonight."
After trailing 14-8 early in the second quarter, the Panthers put together a 14-0 run over the span of four minutes to take a 22-14 lead – a lead that held up until the closing seconds of the game.
Panther Valley started off the fourth quarter with a 41-29 lead. However, the Raiders would convert their first four shots of the final stanza for an 8-0 run that eventually closed the deficit to four points (41-37).
Jake Szczecina stopped the bleeding by sinking a three-pointer, and a Kyle Ferryman bucket put the Panthers up nine points with under four minutes to play.
Cue Bo Rottet! The Tamaqua sophomore point guard scored eight points (two treys and two free throws) over the next 45 seconds to bring Tamaqua to within one point (46-45). After Ferryman and Tyler Skripko traded baskets, Brett Kosciolek gave Tamaqua its first lead since six minutes to go in the second quarter with a 15-foot jumper with 53 seconds on the clock.
Leading 49-48, Rottet then missed the front end of a one-and-one, which was rebounded by Luke Stano. Steven Romanchik then put the Panthers back on top 50-49 with a driving layup with 14 seconds left.
On Tamaqua's final possession, Kosciolek's 17-foot jumper was off the mark. The rebound fell to the floor and a scrum in the paint resulted in the ball being knocked away as time expired.
"We shot the ball pathetically tonight, and they got every loose ball," related Tamaqua coach Caszy Kosciolek. "Give Panther Valley all the credit in the world – they played harder and they deserved to win.
"The thing that I'm really disappointed with – and I don't know why it happened or how it happened – is when Bo missed that foul shot at the end and their kid leaked out for the long rebound in the corner. I don't understand how we can have someone behind us in that situation, but we did. That play won them the game."
Panther Valley had six of its seven players hit a three pointer in the contest, with Steven Romanchik leading the way with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Ferryman also added 13 points.
For Tamaqua (13-9, 6-6), Brett Kosciolek scored 19 points with 12 rebounds, while Bo Rottet added 13 points.
"Down the stretch, we told the kids to forget about our record and just concentrate on trying to end the year playing our best ball," added Crampsie. "Tonight was certainly the best game we played all year."
In the JV game, Tamaqua secured a 46-27 victory.
Dubosky 0-0-0-0, Szczecina 2-1-2-6, Kusko 1-0-0-3, Stano 2-1-2-6, Romanchik 6-2-2-15, Kerschner 3-0-0-7, Ferryman 6-0-0-13. TOTALS: 20-4-6-50.
Rottet 4-2-5-13, Chartier 3-0-0-6, Krell 3-0-0-6, Blaker 0-0-0-0, Frantz 1-1-2-3, Kehl 0-0-0-0, MacDonald 0-0-0-0, Tyler Skripko 1-0-0-2, Kosciolek 6-4-4-19. TOTALS: 18-7-11-49.
Panther Valley 6 20 13 11 - 50
Tamaqua 12 7 10 20 - 49
Panther Valley - Sczcecina 1, Kusko 1, Stano 1, Romanchik 1, Kerschner 1, Ferryman 1; Tamaqua - Rottet 3, Kosciolek 3.