Five area teams on playoff bubble
During the next several weeks, the term "on the bubble" will be heard over and over again in college basketball circles.
With 'March Madness' just around the corner, lots of opinions will be offered about which teams will make the NCAA tournament field and which teams will be left out.
While projections of which college teams will reach the postseason are largely subjective, that isn't the case on the high school level in District 11.
The qualification standards for making the district playoffs are simple win at least 50 percent or your overall games or leagues games and you're in. There won't be any strength of schedule arguments and no one will be counting quality wins when the tourney field is set for girls and boys basketball teams in the area.
With just over a week remaining in the regular season, nine of the 20 area basketball teams have already clinched District 11 berths. Boys teams in are Jim Thorpe, Marian, Northern Lehigh, Panther Valley and Weatherly. Girls teams who have qualified are Marian, Northern Lehigh, Palmerton and Tamaqua.
In addition, there are six local teams that have been eliminated from postseason contention. They are the Lehighton, Palmerton and Tamaqua boys and the Northwestern, Panther Valley and Weatherly girls.
That leaves a total of five area teams the Pleasant Valley and Northwestern boys and the Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Pleasant Valley girls "on the bubble" for the District 11 playoffs.
Here's a breakdown of what those bubble teams will need to do to punch their tickets to the District 11 'Dance.'
* Record 8-11 overall; 4-5 in MVC
* Games remaining Pocono Mountain East; Pocono Mountain West; Stroudsburg
* Playoff breakdown Need to win two of final three games
* Analysis The Bears have their work cut out for them. The good news is that all three games are at home. The bad news is that they have already lost to all three teams this season, falling to East by 29 points, to West by 11 points and Stroudsburg by 6 points. With PM East (8-1) and PM West (8-1) dominating league play this season, the Bears would need to pull a huge upset against one of them to make a winnable final against Stroudsburg meaningful.
* Quoteable "Although we lost to all three of those teams the first time we played them, the Stroudsburg and West games were tight throughout and even the East game was pretty competitive for a half. We also will have them all at home which should help us. I believe we can do it. But if we're going to turn the results around, we're going to have to play fundamentally sound, we will need to cut down on turnovers, and we will need to make foul shots." - Pleasant Valley coach Ken Piontkowski.
* Record 9-10 overall; 6-7 Colonial League
* Games remaining Palmerton; at Bangor; Catasauqua
* Playoff breakdown Need to win win two of final three games
* Analysis The Tigers have been extremely predictable this season. They are 9-1 this season against teams that currently have a losing record and they are 0-9 against teams that currently have a winning record. Palmerton has a losing record and was beaten by the Tigers earlier this season. Catty owns a winning record that includes an 18-point victory over the Tigers. Bangor could be the swing game. The Slaters have been the exception to the rule for Northwestern this season. Although Bangor (8-10, 8-5) has a losing overall record, they beat the Tigers by 19 points earlier this year.
* Quoteable "We put ourselves in this position. We know that we have to win two-out-of-three and if we play as well as we have been playing we'll be in good shape. They know the task at hand and I know the guys are up to the challenge." - Northwestern coach B.J. Dugan.
* Record 7-11 overall; 3-7 Schuylkill League
* Games remaining Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech; at Shenandoah; at Pottsville, Blue Mountain
* Playoff breakdown Need to win final four games
* Analysis Jim Thorpe lost close games to Minersville and North Schuylkill the past week that has b put its playoff hopes on life support. The Olympians have no margin for error. They already own a victory over Pottsville and have suffered a close lost to Blue Mountain (46-42). Friday's toss-up game against Shenandoah might be the key. If the Olympians can win that, they have an excellent chance of heading into next Thursday regular-season finale against Blue Mountain in a win and your in situation.
* Quoteable "Good things are going to happen for these girls. We have a realistic shot at winning out." - Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac.
* Record 9-9 overall; 5-5 Mountain Valley Conference
* Games remaining East Stroudsburg South; at Tamaqua; Pocono Mountain West; Tri-Valley
* Playoff breakdown Need to win one league game or both non-league games
* Analysis Tuesday's upset loss at that hands of Pleasant Valley, makes things extremely difficult on the Indians. ES South and PM West are the top two teams in the MVC and both own big victories 25 and 14 points respectively over Lehighton earlier this year. If the Indians can't pull an upset in one of those games, it will have to beat two of the top teams in the Schuylkill League.
* Record 5-14 overall; 3-6 Mountain Valley Conference
* Games remaining at Pocono Mountain West; at Pocono Mountain East; Stroudsburg
* Playoff breakdown Need to win final three games
* Analysis The Bears kept their extremely slim playoff hopes alive by beating Lehighton on Tuesday, but still need a miracle finish to qualify. Pleasant Valley would have to turn around losses to PM West (21 points), PM East (18 points) and Stroudsburg (3 points).
JT'S FANTASTIC FINISH ... Jim Thorpe's players will never forget the win they earned Tuesday at North Schuylkill.
The visiting Olympians held a lead throughout most of the contest against their Schuylkill League Division 1 foe, but the Spartans' Zach Hogan hit a driving bucket in the final seconds to give his team the lead.
Moments later the horn blew and the home crowd thought they had won a thriller. Fortunately for Thorpe and head coach Brian Carroll, the referees saw him signaling for a timeout after Hogan's basket.
The officials put two seconds on the clock and the Olympians took advantage.
Corey Cinicola hit Sam Lux with a pass near midcourt and Lux put up a desperation shot that banked in for the game-winner. The three-pointer gave JT the victory and set off a celebration.
"Hogan hit his shot, but the basketball gods must have been our side," said Carroll. "Sam banked the shot in and everybody on our team rushed the court. We were just all hugging Sam.
"It was just a crazy game. A couple seconds earlier the whole crowd was in a frenzy because they thought their team had won. Fortunately the refs saw us calling timeout. Everything just worked right for us after that."
Interestingly enough, the first time the two teams played this season North Schuylkill hit a shot with .7 seconds left to give its team a lead. Thorpe had its inbounds pass tipped and then intercepted and didn't get off a final shot.
"The last time we played we set up a different play," said Carroll. "Our guys were more side-by-side where this time we had more of a boxed set. It was somewhat creepy how similar the two games were."