When it comes to Schuylkill League boys basketball, Pottsville is the measuring stick.
In a rare afternoon game on Friday, a Tamaqua program that is enjoying its best season in nearly a decade, found out just how far it still has to go.
The Blue Raiders struggled against a suffocating Pottsville defense and had no answer for the offensive versatility of the Crimson Tide's Brandon Bridy as they dropped a 59-42 decision.
"There is a reason Pottsville hasn't lost a league game in four years," said Tamaqua coach Cas Kosciolek. "They play the best defense in the league, they are extremely disciplined on offense, they go 9 or 10 players deep, and they are very well coached.
"They are a very good basketball team. Our kids got to see where we need to get to as a program to play with an elite team."
Tamaqua was able to play with Pottsville in the early going as three-pointers by Drew Chartier and Zach Wargula had the Raiders ahead 8-4 midway through the opening quarter.
That's when the Tide defense took over as they allowed just one field goal over the next six minutes.
Meanwhile, Bridy was taking charge at both ends of the court, scoring nine points during a 16-3 run that gave Pottsville control of the game.
"Brandon is our leading scorer and tonight he displayed his versatility," said Pottsville coach Dave Mullaney. "He scored from the perimeter, off the dribble, in transition, in the post … he had a really nice game."
Bridy finished the opening half with 13 points, but he was just warming up. In the third quarter he poured in 12 more points as Pottsville (12-4) maintained a double digit lead throughout the remainder of the game. He finished the contest with 29 points.
Despite the loss, Kosciolek said he liked some things he saw from his Raiders (9-7).
"On the positive side, I like the way we battled. For how good and intimidating their defense is, I think we did a nice job of attacking," he said. "Especially in the second half, I thought we had some kids step up and make plays. I thought Bo (Rottet) had a nice game against their pressure."
Rottet finished with 11 points to lead Tamaqua. Brett Kosciolek added eight points and eight boards for the Raiders, who need two wins to qualify for the District 11 playoffs for the first time since 2004.
"The scoreboard might not reflect it, but I'm encouraged by how we competed tonight and earlier this week against Blue Mountain," said coach Kosciolek. "If we can continue to give this type of effort over the last six games of the regular season we are going to be okay."
Painter 0-0-0-0, Blankenhorn 3-1-2-8, Moser 0-0-0-0, Plachko 0-0-0-0, Witman 2-1-2-5, Doyle 0-0-0-0, Bridy 13-2-4-29, Toomey 0-0-0-0, Nabholz 2-0-0-4, Coyle 3-0-0-7, Hinchliffe 0-0-0-0, Kupernavage 0-0-0-0, Wile 1-2-2-4, Melochick 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 25-6-10-59
Rottet 3-4-5-11, Chartier 2-0-0-6, Krell 2-1-1-5, Weinert 0-0-0-0, Frantz 1-0-0-2, Wargula 2-0-0-6, Kehl 1-0-2-2, MacDonald 0-0-0-0, Marcin 0-0-0-0, Ty. Skripko 1-0-0-2, Kosciolek 2-3-4-8, Tr. Skripko 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-8-12-42.
Pottsville 11 20 15 13 - 59
Tamaqua 8 9 15 10 - 42
Three-pointers: P - Blankenhorn 1, Bridy 1, Coyle 1. T - Chartier 2, Wargula 2, Kosciolek 1, Rottet 1.