Tamaqua's run tops Jim Thorpe
bob ford/times news Tamaqua's Amy Zehner prepares to go up with a shot as Nina Batts (left) and Chelsea Smelas of Jim Thorpe defend.
Tamaqua's run to a perfect season has been well documented.
In win No. 21 Friday night against host Jim Thorpe, the Lady Raiders relied on a different kind of run.
Leading by just six points at halftime, Tamaqua (21-0; 12-0) saw its lead cut in half when Brittany Holland hit a three-pointer to start the second half.
What followed, though, is why Joe Berezwick's team is one victory away from completing an undefeated regular season.
Whether it was breaking the Lady Olympians' press, knocking down jumpers, or getting stops at the defensive end, the visitors could do no wrong in putting together a 16-0 spurt.
That spread turned a close contest into a 19-point margin, and the Raiders cruised the rest of the way to a 62-47 Schuylkill League Division 1 win.
"That was a huge run," said Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick. "We needed that. Jim Thorpe was playing really well. It was a tight game going into halftime and you didn't know which way it was going to go.
"The three was big for them but then we were able to get some separation. We had to maintain our composure and do the things we do. We ended up playing solid defense, we hit big shots and had big plays in transition."
Amy Zehner, who tallied a game-high 23 points and pulled down 18 rebounds, started the uprising with a putback. Kayla Hope hit a couple of perimeter shots, Cassie Eroh added a trey and Maria Streisel also contributed a bucket during the six-minute stretch.
"Jim Thorpe is a good pressing team but we're fortunate to have kids that are able to see open players," said Berezwick. "And against their pressue we were able to take advantage of that. That was big because it took away what they like to do best."
The Olympians (16-6; 7-5) played their best during a back-and-forth first half.
Celeste Robinson, who finished with 20 points, had seven during an opening quarter that featured five ties. When Tamaqua gained an advantage in the second frame, it couldn't pull away as inside buckets from Chelsea Smelas and a three from Kristin Lawrence kept it close.
"To be perfectly honest, I thought we were playing outstanding basketball," said Jim Thorpe mentor Rob Kovac. "We played a great first half, but still trailed by six. The third quarter killed us. Britt came out and banged a three but then Tamaqua got hot offensively.
"We were running a gimmicky defense - a little pressure trap in the halfcourt - and they started finding some soft spots."
The Olympians managed to whittle the deficit to 11 points (48-37) in the fourth period, but Zehner worked her way through the Olympian defense for three driving baskets in a one-minute span that put the game away for good.
"To go undefeated is quite an accomplishment," said Kovac. "I don't think Joe gets enough credit for the job he's done. Even with the talent they have, to be perfect in a season is amazing and he deserves all the credit in the world."
"It's a 15-point loss for us but I thought we did a lot of good things. For probably 25 or 26 minutes we played pretty good basketball. Unfortunately, if you're playing against Tamaqua five or six bad minutes are five or six bad minutes too many."
Eroh contributed 20 points, including 11 in the first quarter, to aid the Raider cause while Hope chipped in with nine. Stacey Wallace also filled in for an injured Allison Updike, and did a solid job.
For the Olympians, Smelas followed Robinson in the scoring column with nine points.
In the JV game, Tamaqua won 44-18. Christine Streisel had 12 points while Amanda Solt added 11.
Hope 4-1-2-9, Trainer 0-0-0-0, Kabilko 0-0-0-0, M. Streisel 3-0-1-6, Walker 0-0-0-0, C. Streisel 0-0-0-0, Eroh 6-5-5-20, Zehner 11-1-2-23, Wagner 0-0-0-0, Urban 0-0-0-0, Wallace 1-2-2-4, Solt 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 25-9-12-62.
McElmoyle 2-0-0-5, Batts 0-0-0-0, Lawrence 3-0-0-7, Condley 0-0-0-0, Holland 2-0-0-6, Robinson 8-4-6-20, Mosteller 0-0-0-0, Smelas 4-1-4-9. TOTALS: 19-5-10-47.
Tamaqua 21 9 16 16 - 62
Jim Thorpe 15 9 7 16 - 47
Three-pointers: Tamaqua - Eroh 3; Jim Thorpe - Holland 2, McElmoyle 1, Lawrence 1.