Anthony Rossino might have had a first half to forget – but he had a final five seconds that he'll always remember.
Rossino's twisting reverse layup as the final buzzer sounded capped a furious second half rally and gave Lehighton a 54-52 Mountain Valley Conference upset of Stroudsburg on Tuesday night.
"Coach (Rich) Oertner told me at halftime that I was playing terrible and he was right," said Rossino. "I was turning the ball over and I was playing bad defensively.
"Fortunately, our entire team picked me up. Once we got back in the game, I got a chance to redeem myself and I was able to take advantage of the opportunity."
The idea that Rossino would even have a chance for redemption seemed extremely remote late in the third period.
Thanks to a barrage of three-point baskets, Stroudsburg led 44-31 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. But the Indians gradually chipped away.
Trailing 50-42 with 4:39 left in the game, Lehighton made its final charge.
"Lehighton made every play coming down the stretch," said Stroudsburg coach Shawn Thornton. "They made foul shots, (Tyler) Krum had two strong drives to the basket where we didn't get any help defense, and then (Jordan) Knappenberger hit the tying shot from way behind the three-point line."
Knappenberger's triple tied the score at 52-52 with 1:34 remaining.
The Mountaineers decided to hold the ball and ran the clock all the way down to the :17 mark before missing a long jumper.
The Indians rebounded the ball and then used a pair of timeouts – the second one with just :05 left – to set up the game-winning play.
"The play was set to get a shot for Tyler (Crum), but Anthony's (Rossino) man left him and Tyler did a great job of seeing the court and making the pass," said Lehighton coach Rich Oertner.
It was then up to Rossino to find a way to quickly get off the shot after catching it under the basket.
"I'm usually terrible on reverse layups," said Rossino. "But I had no option because of where I got the ball.
"I miss that shot all the time in practice. I probably make that shot one out of 10 times. Thankfully, this was that one time."
The dramatic victory improves the Indians' record to 9-7 overall and 4-4 in the MVC, moving them within two wins of qualifying for the District 11 playoffs for the first time since 2007. It also ended a 14-game losing streak to Stroudsburg. The last Lehighton victory over the Mounties had been Dec. 30, 2005.
"This is probably our biggest win since I've been at Lehighton," said Oertner. "The kids are learning how to win and starting to believe they can win."
For Stroudsburg (8-7, 5-3), it was a tough loss in a game that it appeared to have under control most of the way.
"The last two possessions just epitomize the entire game," said Thronton. "We make a huge mental mistake and shoot the ball early when we were supposed to be holding for the final shot and then we let Rossino get behind us for the game-winning layup.
"We were ahead most of the game because we had more talent not because of how we were playing. Lehighton played harder than us, they were more intense than us, and they outhustled us – and they got rewarded with a victory."
Crum led Lehighton with 19 points. James Farano added 13 points and Knappenberger chipped in 11.
David Clowney had 16 points for Stroudsburg, which hit nine three-pointers in the game.
Clay 3-0-0-7, Cayo 3-2-2-10, Brandt 1-0-0-2, Clowney 7-0-0-16, Battle 4-0-0-11, Fenn 0-0-0-0, Bragg 0-0-0-0, Lopez 2-1-2-6. TOTALS: 20-3-4-52.
Rossino 2-1-1-5, Farano 5-1-1-13, Crum 5-9-10-19, J. Knappenberger 3-3-4-11, Mele 0-0-0-0, Nalesnik 1-3-4-6. TOTALS: 16-17-20-54.
Stroudsburg 14 19 12 7 - 52
Lehighton 14 12 12 16 – 54
Three-pointers: Stroudsburg – Battle 3, Clowney 2, Cayo 2, Clay 1, Lopez 1. Lehighton – Farano 2, Knappenberger 2, Nalesnik 1.