Tamaqua's Zehner doesn't miss a beat
TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO Tamaqua's Amy Zehner continues to be the sparkplug for the unbeaten Lady Raiders this season.
Amy Zehner doesn't wear a blue shirt with a red "S" under her uniform, but the Tamaqua junior does possess super determination and a will of steel to go with her talent.
On Dec. 1, Zehner discovered she would have to undergo an appendectomy, and Lady Raiders coach Joe Berezwick contemplated preparing his team to go without his 5-11 scoring leader.
Tamaqua proved to have the ability to circle the wagons under adversity last season, regrouping after starting guard Allison Updike went down with a knee injury and winning its first District 11 Class AA championship since 1978.
Zehner, however, never gave the Raiders a chance to miss her.
When Tamaqua tipped off the season on Dec. 12 at Northwestern Lehigh, there was Zehner in the starting line-up, pouring in 19 points.
Zehner hasn't missed a beat since then. In fact, she has put up better numbers so far than her All-State season of a year ago, when she averaged 16.8 points per game.
In Tuesday night's 49-34 Tamaqua victory at Tri-Valley, Zehner had a double-double, pumping in a season-high 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds as the Raiders remained unbeaten at 7-0.
To date, Zehner has netted 124 points, good for 17.7 points per contest. She now has 829 for her career, good for 16th place on the all-time Lady Raiders' scoring list as she surpassed Adriane Miller's 820 points this week.
"I'm really excited to be back on the court," said Zehner, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Southern Lehigh Tournament, leading Tamaqua to the title with 38 points in victories over Harriton and So. Lehigh. "I was really down on myself when I first found out I needed it (the appendectomy). My goal was to get out here as fast as I could with the doctor's permission, play hard and pick up where I left off.
"I wasn't going to miss my first game, so I told the doctor he'd better do something, because I was going to play whether he would let me or not," she added. "I feel 100 percent. Everything is fine."
Berezwick is obviously relieved Zehner is back and playing at her accustomed high level. The Raiders are 46-14 with her in the line-up during her career.
"I was looking at the calendar, thinking she might not be back until the new year," related Berezwick. "Being from the 'Old School', I remember something like this being a 4-6 week deal, depending on how severe it was.
"She caught it in the early stage, and we're thankful for that, but to get her back as quickly as we did, in less than a week, is remarkable. She's playing outstanding basketball. I don't want something like that to happen to anyone, but that's Amy. She wanted to get back in there."
The Raiders had to replace one starter, Kristin Kistler, as well as key reserves from last year's District winning squad. Updike, a junior, is healthy again and has been moved inside to form a strong one-two punch with Zehner. Senior Elissa Streisel is back running the show at point guard and is a three-point threat from the perimeter, and sophomore Kayla Hope's speed is as asset in the backcourt.
Junior Cassie Eroh started the season at forward but has switched positions with Updike to take advantage of Eroh's shooting touch outside.
"We're slowly getting back to where we were last year," stated Zehner. "I'm just trying to play my role with the team, whatever it takes for us to win. Everybody has us highlighted on the schedule, but I just have to forget about that stuff and play my game."
"I think we're getting there," said Berezwick. "It's a long road yet. There are going to be bumps in the road, as well as highs, but it's the long run you have to play for, and hopefully we can keep it together."
One thing is certain: Zehner will come to play each night. The red cape is optional.
LADY BULLDOGS BITE TWICE ... The Northern Lehigh girls' basketball team has started the season 9-0 (5-0 CL) and has won two tournament titles in the process.
The 'Dawgs first title came in the Fleetwood Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 14. They defeated Tulpehocken in the final game, 51-18. Northern Lehigh's second title then came in the Indian Classic on Dec. 29, when they knocked off host Lehighton, 59-38.
Aimee Oertner was named the MVP of both tournaments. The sophomore racked up 38 points in the first tournament and 37 in the second.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING ... Weatherly's Keith Barna recently accomplished a major basketball feat. Barna recorded a quadruple-double in the Wreckers' 82-66 victory over Columbia Montour on Dec. 23.
Barna scored 31 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out 10 assists and made 10 steals. He made eight field goals in the game (one three-pointer) and converted on 14-of-18 free throws.
INJURY BUG .... Several area teams have been hit hard with injuries to star players early in the season.
The Marian boys, the Tamaqua boys, and the Jim Thorpe girls all recently lost their leading scorers for several games with leg injuries.
The Colts' Matt Yaich suffered a knee injury during a practice back on Dec. 17. Originally it was feared that Yaich's injury might be to his MCL, but it was later diagnosed as a bad knee sprain.
Yaich was re-examined on Tuesday and was cleared to begin light practice with a brace on. He won't be able to play a game, however, until at least Jan. 15 when he will once again have the knee examined.
Yaich averaged 17 points through the Colts' first three games, but has now missed six straight contests.
The Raiders' Anthony Bumbulsky, who is leading his team with a 14.6 ppg. average, has missed the last two games after hurting his ankle. Bumbulsky didn't see any action in Tamaqua losses to Hamburg and Salisbury.
The Lady Olympians' Celeste Robinson is also battling a knee injury. Robinson was hurt in the first quarter of her team's game with Pine Grove on Dec. 21. She tried to return to the line-up during the first round of the Lady Indian Holiday Classic, but was only able to play a few minutes against Northern Lehigh before leaving the game. Robinson has sinced missed games against Palmerton and Panther Valley.