To a purist, Panther Valley's 50-23 win over Pine Grove on Wednesday night was an example that could come right out of a John Wooden textbook on how to play the game of basketball.
A famous Wizard of Westwood quote might be an even better way to describe the Panthers' performance "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."
Panther Valley's performance against the Cardinals would have made Wooden proud.
There were no spectacular shots, no end to end layups, no exceptionally high scorers, and no one with double digit rebounds for the Panthers. It was simply an execution of a game plan that optimized unselfish teamwork to near perfection.
First and most significantly, PV took care of the ball. In the first half, they committed only two turnovers while forcing 15 from the Cardinals.
Even though Panther top scorer Jake Szczecina struggled early in the first quarter, hitting only one of his first six shots, he got plenty of support from his teammates. Jake Kusko drilled a three-pointer and along with Luke Stano's two baskets, the Panthers jumped out to a 12-7 lead. Other than Kobe D'Agostino's four points on six shots, the rest of the Cardinals were held to only two field goal attempts, the result of Panther Valley's smothering press which did not allow Pine Grove to even get into good shooting areas.
"I was concerned about having a good start," said Panther coach Pat Crampsie. "I told our team that we had to be careful with Pine Grove. They had beaten Shenandoah Valley who we had defeated by only four points. But we really got after it, diving for loose balls, forcing turnovers, and then establishing a good tempo on offense by being patient until we had good looks at the basket."
Szczecina, who led all scorers with a quiet 20 points in the game, put up a nine spot in the second quarter to help the Panthers to a commanding 21-point lead at the half. PV's stifling defense held the Cardinals to only one field goal and one free throw for the entire second quarter.
"Once again, Jake did an out standing job of drawing attention so that our other players could get open," said Crampsie. "And he did hit some key shots to keep our lead and like usual, even when he misses he gets to the foul line more times than not."
Szczecina's perfect six-for-six from the charity stripe keeps him at the top of the list against all other area free throw shooters in individual percentage.
In the third quarter, the Panthers maintained their large lead on balanced scoring from Szecina, and fellow seniors, Stano, Kusko and Kyle Ferryman.
"We obviously struggled against their pressure defense," said Pine Grove coach, Frank D'Agostino. "We have to learn not to panic and know where our passing reads are. We also had trouble slowing the game down and we are still looking for players other than Kobe to create their own shots."
There was no letting up by the Panthers in the fourth quarter as they held Pine Grove (2-10) again to only one field goal on one-for-eight shooting from the floor. On the night, the Cardinals shot only 21 per cent. Panther Valley (7-3, 2-2) added four more three-pointers to its TIMES NEWS area leading number, which now totals 52 on the season.
"Before the game, I said to our team that a 7-3 record looks a lot more impressive than 6-4 and they really responded, said Crampsie. "We have some tough games coming up, but I like going into those games with the intensity and focus we showed tonight."
D'Agostino 6-2-4-14, Blackenhorn 1-3-4-6, Rossi 1-0-0-2, Keefer 0-1-2-1, Cataldo 0-0-0-0, A, White 0-0-0-0, T. White 0-0-0-0, J. White 0-0-0-0, Weinus 0-0-0-0, Mars 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 8-6-10-23.
Szczecina 6- 6-6-20, Stano 3-2-3-8, Ferryman 1-4-4-7, Kusko 2-0-2-5, Dubosky 1-2-2-4, Horan 2-0-0-4, Maholick 1-0-0-2, Vermillion 0-0-0-0, Nase 0-0-0-0, Hudicka 0-0-0-0, Keo 0-0-0-0, Owens 0-0-0-0, Weng 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-12-14-50.
Pine Grove 7 3 9 4 23
Panther Valley 12 19 9 10 50
Three-pointers: PG - Blackenhorn 1, PV - Szczecina 2, Kusko 1, Ferryman 1.