Magic number still one for Lehighton boys
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Lehighton's Vince Mele stops in the lane before going up for a shot in Tuesday's game against Pocono Mountain West. Defending on the play is the Panthers' Sean Cooper.
And then there was one … as in one last chance for the Lehighton boys basketball team to qualify for the District 11 playoffs.
Tuesday night's 87-46 loss to Mountain Valley Conference power Pocono Mountain West dropped the Indians' record to 10-11 on the season.
In order for Lehighton to reach the .500 mark and qualify for districts for the first time since 2007, it will have to beat Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg in its regular season finale next Tuesday.
"That's a very good team we played tonight," said Lehighton coach Rich Oertner. "It wasn't our best performance, especially on defense, but give West a lot of the credit for that. They are so fast and so deep. We just couldn't match that.
"But we've already put this behind us. In reality, our district playoffs start next Tuesday. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that it would come down to winning our final game against Notre Dame to make the playoffs, I would have taken that in a minute. Now we have that chance."
The Indians knew their chances of qualifying with a win last night were slim against a Panther team that improved its record to 16-4 overall and 11-0 in the MVC.
"Lehighton is a much better team than they have been in recent years," said Pocono Mountain West head coach Brad Pensyl. "They have some nice, young players and we struggled with them when we played earlier this season.
"But tonight we got off to a much better start. We executed better, we hit some shots, and we forced some turnovers. Getting out of the gate like we did really let us to dictate the pace of the game."
After a James Farano three-pointer allowed Lehighton to strike first, Joe Wiggins and Darren Dixon keyed a 14-point Panther run that gave them control. Dixon finished the opening quarter with nine points as PM West raced to a commanding 28-8 lead. The Indians turned the ball over 11 times in the period.
The Panther advantage never dropped below 17 points the rest of the way.
Wiggin finished with 19 points to lead four PM West players in double figures.
"This was a good performance for us," said Pensyl. "We struggled on Saturday against Whitehall so we talked to our kids about getting into playoff mode. I think we took a step in that direction tonight."
Pensyl also talked about Lehighton's playoff chances.
"I know they need to win their last game to get in and I'll be cheering for them," he said. "I always want to see teams from our league get to the postseason and do well. I wish them the best."
For Lehighton, Tyler Crum had 12 points while Farano and Jordan Knappenberger scored 10 points apiece.
"I thought coming into this season that we could get eight or nine wins and that if we wanted to make districts we would have to steal a few games in the Mountain Valley Conference," said Oertner. "We were able to steal those wins, now we have a chance to qualify.
"I am thrilled with the opportunity and I think our kids are too."
Dixon 6-3-3-15, Vick 6-0-0-16, Cooper 5-5-7-17, Miles 2-0-0-6, Howard 2-0-0-4, Edwards 0-0-0-0, Diaz 0-1-4-1, Wiggin 8-2-3-19, Baptiste 1-0-0-2, Hardy 2-2-2-7. TOTALS: 32-13-19-87.
Rossino 1-1-2-3, Farano 4-0-0-10, Crum 5-2-3-12, Zwetolitz 0-0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0-0, McCandless 0-0-0-0, K. Knappenberger 0-2-2-2, Evans 0-0-0-0, J. Knappenberger 4-1-3-10, Mele 3-2-5-8, Nalesnik 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 17-9-17-46.
PM West 28 17 24 18 - 87
Lehighton 8 14 17 7 - 46
Three-pointers: PM - Vick 4, Cooper 2, Miles 2, Wiggin 1, Baptiste 1. L- Farano 2, J. Knappenberger 1.