CENTER VALEY - During the course of a game a coach can usually see what adjustments need to be made after the first few minutes of play. That being said, Lehighton head man Rich Oertner must have had his best pair of eye glasses on yesterday evening.
Oertner switched the Indians to a 2-2-1 three quarter court defense, speeding up the tempo, helping Lehighton get out and run to a 50-46 District 11 AAA first round playoff victory over Southern Lehigh.
Things were not going Lehighton's way early on with Southern Lehigh (11-12) controlling the rhythm of the game. The Spartans' talent suit more of a half-court style of play while the Indians (12-11) are quite simply a running team. Lehighton's triangle and two defense was solid in the first quarter, but it wasn't creating any offensive opportunities on the other end.
That's when Oertner rallied the troops and implemented the 2-2-1 defense. The Spartans struggled handling it and Lehighton used an 18-7 second quarter run to lead by eight at the break. A Tyler Crum three at the buzzer in the second also served as a huge momentum boost heading into intermission for Lehighton.
"We probably switched defenses about 35 times in the game," said Oertner. "One of my theories coaching over the years has been to make sure everybody knows where they're supposed to be at all times. That's one of the advantages of us only playing six guys is that all our kids know exactly where they're supposed to be."
The slow paced style definitely hindered the Indians early on, but the Lehighton coaching staff made it a point to the Indian players in the second quarter to get out and run.
"Sometimes in our half-court offense we just don't get things going the way we want," said Oertner. "We got some speed and we talked about that during one of our time outs. We really wanted to push the ball whether it be a turnover, rebound, anything. We just wanted to get the ball down the floor. We got a couple quick baskets after doing that and it turned things around for us."
Southern Lehigh crawled back into the game in the third, outscoring Lehighton 13-9, getting within four points heading into the final frame. The Spartans got some better looks in the quarter, getting the ball to the middle of the floor and attacking from the foul line area.
The Spartans then challenged the Indians for most of the fourth closing within two a couple times. At the five-minute mark they closed within one of Lehighton, but they couldn't get any of their go-ahead jumpers to fall.
That was the story on the night for Southern Lehigh. They got good looks, but they couldn't knock them down. Lehighton shot well from the foul line down the stretch (8-13) and that was a wrap, putting an end to the Spartans season.
"They pressured us out front and we struggled a bit with it, but I think we had a lot of good shots in the first half, we just missed them. It was like that the whole night it felt like," said Southern Lehigh coach Bob Shaffer. "They just made the plays to win the game. I was proud of our effort, we came out and made a run there in the second half, but we just never got that play we needed to get us over the hump."
James Farano had a big game for Lehighton, scoring a season-high 18 points while collecting nine boards. Tyler Crum chipped in with 13 points.
For Southern Lehigh Mike Zabrecky scored 11 points and Dylan Schmidt helped out with 10 points.
Rossino 2-1-2-5, Farano 6-4-5-18, Crum 4-4-8-13, J. Knappenberger 1-2-4-4, Mele 3-0-1-6, Nalesnik 2-0-2-4. TOTALS: 18-11-22-50.
Schmidt 4-1-2-10, Kandt 0-0-0-0, Zellner 1-5-7-8, Krause 2-0-0-6, Heiser-Koch 1-0-0-3, Long 0-0-0-0, Zabrecky 4-2-2-11, Reppert 3-2-2-8. TOTALS: 15-10-13-46
Lehighton 5 18 9 18 - 50
So. Lehigh 8 9 13 18 - 46
Three-pointers: L - Farano 2, Crum 1. SL - Krause 2, Zabrecky 1, Schmidt 1, Zellner 1.