Christmas tourneys kick off next week
Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and spending time together with loved ones.
In the sports world, the holidays are also the time for local basketball tournaments.
Eleven area basketball teams will compete in Christmas tournaments next week. All 11 figure to play two games regardless if they win or lose on the first day, as they will either move on to their respective championship or consolation games.
The Slatington Rotary Christmas Tournament will hit the big '3-0' next Tuesday, as the event will enter its third decade of existence. Jim Thorpe and Palmerton will get things rolling at 6:30 p.m., while Lehighton and Northern Lehigh will tussle in the night cap. The two losers will play at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday with the championship game taking place afterward.
Last season Northern Lehigh knocked off Jim Thorpe in the final, 56-40.
"We worked hard to get four local teams," said Northern Lehigh athletic director Bryan Geist. "When the schedules got reduced a few years ago we were able to get Jim Thorpe. It added to the local rivalries.
"I think its longevity is a compliment to the rotary club. They have a lot of longstanding members that are accustomed to getting everything ready. Not many things last 30 years any more and for a basketball tournament to do so is great."
The only other boys' basketball team to participate in a Christmas tournament will be Pleasant Valley. The Bears will travel to Hazleton on Wednesday to compete in the Cougar Classic. Last year the Bears upset host Hazleton in the opening round, 51-47 before falling to Bangor in the final.
The other big tournament in the area will be the 12th annual Lady Indian Holiday Classic. This will actually be the first tournament to tip-off, as Northern Lehigh, Palmerton, Jim Thorpe and Lehighton will lace them up Monday night. The consolation and championship games will be playing out the following day.
Last year Northern Lehigh topped Palmerton 44-31 to bring home the hardware. That was the third straight tournament title for the Lady Bulldogs. In all three of those years, NL's Aimee Oertner was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player.
This year, the Lady Bulldogs enter the tournament with a 2-3 record.
"We're looking forward to it," said veteran Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner, who is also Aimee's father. ""We've enjoyed some pretty good success in this tournament over the last few years. Hopefully we can continue that success and it will help jump start us in the new year.
"It's not going to be easy, however. Jim Thorpe and Palmerton both have very good teams and Lehighton just got a win this week so they'll have some positive momentum."
Tamaqua will also be hooping it up over the winter break. The Lady Raiders will participate in the Lady Spartan Christmas tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Raiders defeated Southern Lehigh 51-43 in the championship last year.
Lastly, the Panther Valley girls will take part in the Senator Rhodes tournament at Mahanoy Area on Monday and Tuesday. Last year the Lady Panthers went 0-2.
SPECIAL K .... Nate Kresge of Lehighton tied a school record on Friday night when he buried seven three-pointers in a game against Pocono Mountain East. Kresge hit five of those three-pointers in the fourth quarter as part of his game-high 26-point performance.
Kresge's seven treys ties him with Travis Hunsicker for the most in Indian history. Hunsicker drilled seven from beyond the arc on Feb. 7, 1997 against Northampton.
MILESTONE ... Jim Thorpe's Kristin Lawrence hit the 100th three-pointer of her career on Wednesday, Dec. 14 in the Olympians' 60-35 victory over Weatherly. Lawrence joins Mary Gillespie (1989-93) as the only two girls basketball players in Jim Thorpe history to achieve that feat. Gillespie had 136 three-pointers in her career.
SHUT DOWN DEFENSE ... The Panther Valley girls set a school record in a a 62-7 victory over Lincoln Leadership Academy last Thursday.
The seven points is the fewest amount allowed by a Lady Panther team since the program's inception during the 1966-67 season. The previous record was set on Dec. 10, 1969 when Panther Valley beat Jim Thorpe, 24-8.
The 55-point victory against LLA was the third largest margin of victory in the program's history. The highest victory margin in Panther Valley girls basketball history occurred on Jan. 24, 1980 when the Panthers beat Hazleton by 62 points (99-37).
200 AND COUNTING ... Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski won his 200th career game last Saturday against Nazareth.
Trailing by 32-28 entering the fourth quarter, the Bears went on a 19-7 run in the final frame to come from behind and beat the Blue Eagles, 47-39. Pleasant Valley is off to one of its best starts in years, as it sits at 4-1 after the first two weeks of the season.