Szczecina leads Panthers
bob ford/times news Panther Valley's Jake Szczecina (3) takes the ball to the basket against Jim Thorpe's Bryce Mecciche.
Panther Valley's Jake Szczecina couldn't explain it.
Panther coach Pat Crampsie wasn't surprised by it.
But both were thrilled that it happened again.
One year after setting a school record by making nine three-pointers at Jim Thorpe, Szczecina returned Tuesday night and proved it was no fluke.
Szczecina equaled his own record by burying nine more three-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points to lead Panther Valley to a 59-53 Schuylkill League victory over the Olympians.
"I've had a lot of success here," understated Szczecina. "I really don't know what it is about the gym, but I've shot the ball well here two years in a row.
"Tonight, my teammates did a great job of moving the ball and getting me open looks and I was able to knock a lot of them down."
Szczecina was almost all of the Panthers' offense in the first quarter as they fell behind 19-8.
After drilling a pair of triples in the opening period, the Panther Valley senior really caught fire in the second quarter, going 5-for-6 from field and scoring 13 points. His tear helped the Panthers rally to take a 32-27 halftime lead.
"We played slow, sloppy and tentative in the first quarter," said Crampsie. "It was tough to watch. But we picked up our intensity in the second quarter to turn things around.
"I thought Cee Keo, Ethan Vermillion, Charles Nase and Matt Hudicka gave us a lot of energy and enthusiasm off the bench, and Jake (Szczecina) got on a roll to carry us offensively."
After being outscored by 16 points in the second quarter, Thorpe also showed the ability to bounce back as it rallied behind eight second half points from reserve Nick Acker to tie the game at 50-50 midway through the final quarter.
With the game on the line, however, Panther Valley drained two clutch three-pointers. The first by Szczecina snapped the tie with 2:47 remaining and the second by Luke Stano came with :47 to play and increased the Panther lead to 56-50.
"Jake has a well-earned green light," said Crampsie. "He's worked extremely hard the last four years and deserves that privilege. He was incredible shooting the ball tonight, but we see that every day at practice so it's not even surprising to see him make that many.
"We also have confidence in Luke's ability to hit the three. He struggled a little early, but he hit the huge shot at the end to give us breathing room."
Szczecina said knowing he has his coach's trust and his teammates' confidence allows his to relax on the court.
"I probably have the greenest light in the Schuylkill League," laughed Szczecina. "Coach is great about trusting me to make good decisions and my teammates are always encouraging me to look for my shot."
In addition to Szczecina's big game, the Panthers (3-1) also got 12 points from Stano and nine points from Kyle Ferryman.
For Jim Thorpe (2-3), Bryce Micciche led the way with 15 points and Deonte St. Hill added 12. Shane Snisky chipped in 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"I was proud of our effort," said Olympian coach Grant Whary. "I loved how we battled.
"In the end, it just came down to Panther Valley nailing some big shots. They have great shooters and it's tough to overcome a team making that many (13) three-pointers."
Dubosky 0-0-0-0, Szczecina 11-2-2-33, Keo 0-2-2-2, Kusko 0-0-0-0, Stano 4-1-4-12, Hudicka 0-0-0-0, Ferryman 4-0-1-9, Nase 1-1-2-3, Vermillion 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-6-11-59.
Acker 4-0-0-8, Principe 2-0-0-6, Micciche 6-0-0-15, Lawrence 1-0-0-2, St. Hill 5-0-0-12, Everitt 0-0-0-0, Snisky 4-2-3-10. TOTALS: 22-2-3-53.
Panther Vy. 8 24 12 15 - 59
Jim Thorpe 19 8 17 9 - 53
Three-pointers: PV - Szczecina 9, Stano 3, Ferryman 1; JT - Micciche 3, Principe 2, St. Hill 2.