Raiders' 'D' delivers
JIM THORPE - There was no secret about Pen Argyl's strategy against Tamaqua in their District 11 Class AA championship game clash.
Green Knights' coach Dave Moyer had made it known that he hoped to hold down the tempo against the defending D-11 AA champions. He wanted to rely on his defense to keep the Lady Raiders, who average 57 points-per-game, within the 30s or 40s.
As it turned out, the Knights had the Raiders right where the Raiders wanted them.
Tamaqua, which had allowed 41.6 points-per-game defensively, turned up its own defense a notch and the Knights couldn't keep pace.
The result was the second district title in a row for the Schuylkill League champions, who clamped down on Pen Argyl for a 45-31 triumph Friday night before a raucous full house.
The Raiders, now 24-2, jumped out to a six-point lead after one quarter and held the third-seeded Knights (18-9) to single digits in three of four quarters. Tamaqua steadily pulled away to the delight of their cheering section, with many of them wearing 6th Man T-shirts.
With sophomore Kayla Hope's ball-hawking, the shot-blocking and rebounding of juniors Amy Zehner and Allison Updike, and some spot on man-to-man harassment from senior Elissa Streisel and junior Cassie Eroh, the top-seeded Raiders had the right recipe to shut down the Colonial League Cinderella.
Pen Argyl hit on just 12-of-49 shots from the floor (24 percent) and were a horrid 3-for-12 from the charity stripe. By contrast, Tamaqua connected on 16-of-37 field goal attempts (47 percent) and were 13-of-18 from the foul line.
With Zehner pulling down 12 rebounds and Updike adding 10 caroms, the Raiders also controlled the glass with a 38-25 edge.
The Knights' pressure defenses did force 23 Raider turnovers while committing just 14, but Pen Argyl could never get the run it needed to have a chance.
"We just kept our composure out there whenever they tried to make a run against us and it paid off in the long run," said Zehner, who tallied only 14 points but hurt the Knights in other ways.
Zehner came up with seven of those points in the first quarter to get Tamaqua out to an 11-5 lead and put the Knights in 'catch-up mode.'
"We knew coming in that they had been doing a great job with their spread offense, especially later in the season," said Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick. "It was very key for us to get out on top early and force their hand a bit.
"I have to give them credit. Their trapping and switching defenses kept us a little off-balance, but our defense gets a lot of credit as well for limiting them to 31 points. We had enough offense and some really good defense to win this one."
Hope, who managed to grab seven rebounds, continued using her quickness to stay in the faces of the Knights' guards.
"We wanted to pressure the ball and keep their offense under control," said Hope.
"We knew their game was to have 2-3 players bring the ball up," explained Berezwick. "Kayla's really good at being around the ball, so we wanted to keep her at that.
"They like to run a patient offense and go with dribble penetration to the middle, especially with (Sara Vough), but Allie Updike did an outstanding job on her (holding Vogue to four points)."
Laura Cinelli, whose 16 points paced Pen Argyl, hit a pair of treys late in the fourth quarter. Still, the Raiders kept the Knights from using the perimeter to catch up, holding them to a 4-for-12 showing from beyond the arc.
"With that offense, they have the ability to pass it out to the perimeter. (Cinelli) hurt us with a couple of threes, but Cassie did a great job on their top three-point shooter (Megan Zanette), holding her to two points," said Berezwick.
"Rebounding-wise, we didn't give them many second shots. Our team defense held them to 31 when they wanted to keep the game in the high 30's or low 40's. Our defense did them one better and that was the difference."