Tamaqua head coach Cas Kosciolek might want to patent his halftime speech to the Blue Raiders on Monday night at Panther Valley.
Leading by just three points at intermission, the Blue Raiders came out with some real aggressiveness to pull away for a 65-52 victory.
The win was the 999th in the history of the Tamaqua program and pulled the Raiders (9-2, 4-2) within two wins of qualifying for the district playoffs for the first time since 2004. It also was the first time Tamaqua has beaten Panther Valley since 2005 ending a 12-game losing streak against it.
"We were up 29-20 and I felt good with about a minute to go in the half," Kosciolek said afterwards. "They came back and hit those two three's and it was a ball game.
"I tried to tell them that and we wanted to start of the third quarter and leave no doubt.
"My MVP of the game was Drew Chartier. His assignment was to guard Jake Szczecina. Jake is probably the most improved player in the Schuylkill League. Drew did a real nice job pressuring him fullcourt. Drew's a kid who never saw a minute of varsity until this year and he's just one of those kids who gives us that real toughness. His defensive effort didn't rub off on the other four in the first half. But I think it did in the second half."
The Raiders jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but the Panthers (2-12, 1-5) came right back and went ahead with five straight points. Bo Rottet had five points in the first quarter and Brett Kosciolek added four as Tamaqua held on to a 16-12 edge after the first eight minutes. Steve Romanchik kept the Panthers close with seven points.
In the second quarter, it looked like the Raiders were going to pull away, but the Panthers, thanks to five points apiece from Luke Stano and Szczecina cut it to three at the break (29-26).
"What we did today better than we've ever done was to take the ball into the guts of the defense", Kosciolek said. "I thought we took the ball inside and made some nice passes, especially when they pressured us and tried to double and so forth. We had Bo (Rottet) come down and dish off nice. We had Brett (Kosciolek) give it up a couple different times. We have scorers. There have been games when we've had four guys in doubles. They finished off and did some real nice things."
A Szczecina three to start the second half tied things up at 29-29, but the Raiders went on an 8-0 run and the closest the Panthers would come the rest of the way was within six.
Rottet had seven of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter, while Tyler Krell added eight.
Backing up Rottet on the night was Kosciolek with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Wargula also added 11. The Panthers were led by Romanchik, with a game-high 17, Szczecina with 13 and Brett Kerschner with 11.
"We were disappointed with the effort on Saturday at Lehighton," said Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie. "The kids bounced back, came out tonight ready to play and went after them for 32 minutes. That's all we're asking. You get after it like that and you give yourself a chance.
"We had opportunities, but their height really hurt us. I don't know how many second chance points they got, but I know it was a bundle and I think that was the difference.
"There were times when I thought we did a great job defensively, forced them into shots we wanted them to take, contested jumped, and if they didn't hit them they got two or three shots at times, especially in the third quarter and that hurt."
Tamaqua held on for a 53-46 win in the JV game as Michael Weinert finished with 14 points. Jake Kusko had 17 and Chad Dubosky 12 for the Panthers.
Rottet 6-1-2-15, Chartier 2-2-2-6, Krell 4-0-0-8, Frantz 2-0-0-4, Wargula 4-1-1-11, Kehl 1-0-0-2, Ty Scripko 1-0-0-2, Kosciolek 6-1-1-13, Trev.Scripko 2-0-0-4. TOTALS: 28-5-6-65.
Szczecina 5-0-0-13, Kusko 0-0-0-0, Stano 2-1-2-6, Romanchik 7-2-4-17, Kerschner 4-1-2-11, Ferryman 2-1-2-5, Taras 0-0-0-0, Vermillion 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-5-10-52.
Tamaqua 16 13 20 16 - 65
Panther Vy. 12 14 14 12 - 52
Three-pointers: T - Rottet 2, Wargula 2; PV - Szczecina 3, Kerschner 2, Stano 1, Romanchik 1.