Panther Valley came out with the mindset that they were going to shut Jim Thorpe down and control the tempo. That's exactly what the Panthers did for four quarters, en route to a 44-22 Schuylkill League win over the Olympians.
Panther Valley (9-7) used its defense to pressure Jim Thorpe into mistakes for most of the evening and the Olympians (1-12) were never able to get into a rhythm over the course of the game. Panther coach Josh Wank was pleased with the effort and intensity his team showed throughout the game.
"I was proud of the way we created turnovers, especially early on," Wank remarked. "I thought we did a great job of forcing them into making passes in areas where they weren't comfortable.
"I thought we did a great job of putting ball pressure on, making them turn the ball over in transition. I thought we did a good job trapping and rotating out of the trap."
The Panthers also got solid offensive play from leading scorer Abbey Whildin, who topped Panther Valley with a game-high 17 points, with 10 coming in the first half. Whildin knocked down six of her nine free throws in the contest.
Sam Zlock chipped in eight points for the Panthers and was a force inside all night, allowing for numerous second chance points, which Panther Valley took advantage of early and often.
"I thought we won the glass and I thought we did a good job of hitting the boards," said Wank. "I think it was a group effort on the boards; I don't think it was just one kid.
"We had two or three kids that were getting second shot points."
Wank knows that for his team to progress even further this season and end its long District 11 playoff drought, that the defense he has been preaching all season will be key.
"Defense wins games and for us to get into the District 11 Playoffs, we have to continue to play sound, solid defense," Wank said. "As of late, I've been much more pleased with our defensive effort and our intensity."
Wank was also pleased with the contributions he received from role players throughout the game and the fact that a number of girls were able to contribute when called upon.
"I definitely think that, as a whole, everyone that played in the game stepped up," Wank said. "Even our bench came in and did a nice job to spell some of our starters that got into foul trouble.
"That was the goal this year. To get more kids into the rotation to develop that depth."
Unfortunately, depth is something that a very young Jim Thorpe squad is lacking, largely due to the fact that the Olympians lost six seniors from last year's team.
Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac did see progress from his squad.
"The effort was good and we played hard," Kovac said. "Again, its a learning process for us.
"We did some good things and there were some signs of improvement. Again, I liked our effort."
Nikki Ennis paced the Olympians with seven points.
Doughty 0-0-0-0, Beard 0-0-0-0, Condly 1-1-8-3, Ennis 3-0-4-7, Rusbarsky 1-2-2-4, Cressman 0-2-2-2, Hoffman 0-0-0-0, Becker 1-1-4-3, Bush 0-3-6-3, Shigo 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 6-9-26-22.
Whildin 5-6-9-17, Marouchoc 0-0-0-0, Blasko 1-0-0-2, Vance 0-1-2-1, Licht 0-0-0-0, Corby 0-0-0-0, Jacobs 0-0-0-0, Smith 2-2-2-6, Markovich 2-0-0-5, Jones 0-0-0-0, Mikovich 2-0-0-5, Zlock 3-2-5-8. TOTALS: 15-11-18-44.
Jim Thorpe 9 4 3 6 - 22
Panther Vy. 19 8 12 5 - 44
Three-pointers: Jim Thorpe - Ennis 1; Panther Valley - Whildin 1, Markovich 1, Mikovich 1.