Lehighton rally falls short
Stroudsburg's winless record and dominating first half performance might have seemed like a contradiction to a lot of people.
But not to Lehighton coach Rich Oertner.
The Mountaineers showed that records can be deceiving as they led by as many as 19 points in the first half and then held off a gutsy Lehighton comeback for a 77-69 Mountain Valley Conference victory on Friday.
"We knew Stroudsburg was a talented team," said Oertner. "They lost to Emmaus and Liberty by three points each and then to Pocono Mountain West in overtime. They could have easily been undefeated coming in here.
"They are deep and they are big and those two areas are where they hurt us tonight."
Stroudsburg (1-3, 1-1) rotated nine players in and out during the opening half and out-rebounded the Indians 20-9 during the first two quarters.
"It's very difficult for us to play at the pace you saw in the second half for an entire 32 minutes," said Oertner. "We just don't have the depth that a lot of the other MVC teams have. Because of that, we played a lot of zone in the first half.
"In retrospect, maybe we should have got out of it a little sooner. We played much better when we went man-to-man in the second half, but realistically I don't know if we could have done that. We ended up with three or four kids with four fouls the way it was."
Danny Cuevas, the Mountaineers' 6-6 center, did the majority of the damage during the opening half as he scored 19 of his team-high 21 points and hauled down seven of his eight rebounds. Stroudsburg led 40-21 at one point before settling for a 43-27 halftime lead.
"Execution-wise I was pretty happy with how we played the entire game," said Stroudsburg coach Shawn Thorton. "We want to create some problems with our fullcourt defense, keep the tempo up, and rotate 9 or 10 guys in and out of our lineup.
"That worked very well for us in the first half, but even when Lehighton made its run in the second half, I thought we were playing well. You have to give Lehighton credit for coming back like it did."
The Indians' comeback began with a 13-1 third quarter run that cut the Mountaineers' lead to 46-40 with 2:20 left in the period. Jordan Knappenberger had six points during the Lehighton spurt. Stroudsburg didn't make its first field goal of the quarter until less than a minute remained and finished the stanza just 2-for-15 from the field.
"We've gone through significant stretches in all our games where we haven't been able to buy a basket and that happened again tonight," said Thorton. "I thought we were getting good looks, but we couldn't hit and that let Lehighton back in the game."
Stroudsburg regrouped and pushed the lead back to double digits (64-53) midway through the final quarter, but Lehighton had one more run left.
A short jumper by Tyler Crum and six points by James Farano cut the deficit to 68-61with 1:57 to go. Back-to-back threes from Farano and Crum inside of the one-minute mark then made it 74-69. But that was as close as it would get.
"I really like the way we battled back," said Oertner. "Stroudsburg is a good team and we made a nice run at them in the second half. It's tough when you fall behind by as much as we did, but I like the way our kids never quit."
Crum led the Indians (3-2, 1-2) with 21 points. Farano added 16 points, Knappenberger and Vince Mele tallied 11 points each and Anthony Rossino chipped in 10.
Gordon 1-0-0-2, Bermudez 1-2-4-4, E. Choy 6-2-4-17, Lopez 4-5-6-13, Battle 4-3-4-13, Cromartie 1-1-2-3, Thorton 0-0-0-0, Cuevas 9-3-5-21, Odhiambo 0-4-4-4. TOTALS: 26-20-29-77.
Rossino 0-10-12-10, Farano 5-5-6-16, Crum 9-1-1-21, Zwetolitz 0-0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0-0, J. Knappenberger 3-4-5-11, Mele 5-1-2-11, Chambers 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-21-26-69.
Stroudsburg 19 24 10 24 - 77
Lehighton 10 17 17 25 - 69
Three-pointers: Stroudsburg - E. Choy 3, Battle 2. Lehighton - Crum 2, Farano 1, J. Knappenberger 1.