Lehighton is a team that can comfortably play any defense it wants.
The Indians found a style that suited them best during a 49-41 Schuylkill League Division 1 victory against Tamaqua on Monday night.
"We went into the game trying to take their shooters away," said Lehighton head coach Rich Oertner. "We were able to take two (shooters) away in the triangle, which we play most of the time. The third (shooter) hurt us for a period, but he didn't hurt us the whole game."
The Tribe contained Tamaqua's leading scorer Thad Zuber, holding him to five points. But Zuber's vision and slashing ability helped create open shots for the rest of the Raiders. Zeke Wassell led Tamaqua with 16 points and a trio of three-pointers.
"Zuber is one of the best players in the league, in my mind," Oertner said. "Defensively, our kids are listening and keying into what we're saying. It's not easy for kids to do. When we substitute, whoever goes into the game knows exactly what's going on."
Tamaqua left points on the floor from the foul line, specifically in the second quarter when the Raiders missed six foul shots. The Indians took advantage during the sequence and had their best period of the game, outscoring Tamaqua by an 18-10 margin.
"We didn't do a very good job of executing," said Tamaqua head coach Jim Barron, whose Raiders shot 7-for-17 from the foul line. "We missed a lot of easy ones that we should have made, and we were terrible from the line. That's not going to win you many games."
The Raiders made an eight-point halftime deficit as little as one point on two separate occasions in the second half.
Wassell started the fourth frame with a steal and a lay-in with 7:16 remaining, which cut the Lehighton lead to 34-33. Later in the quarter, he hit two three-pointers, which cut the Indians lead to four.
But a late jumper from Donnie Buchinsky, and a pair of Andre McDowell free throws with less than a minute left, put the game out of reach.
Buchinsky led the Tribe (9-1, 4-1) with 16 points, and always seemed to jolt the Indians when they needed a jump-start.
"We weren't worried," Buchinsky said. "We knew we had a job to get done. The triangle that we ran tonight is probably our best defense. We play the two best scorers that they have, and hopefully we limit the rest of the team from doing much."
FITTING IN NICELY ... The Indians knew that Addison Howland and Caine Carpenter had to play significant roles for the team to be competitive this year. The duo played rugged defense and combined for 18 points.
UP NEXT ... Up next for the Raiders (8-4 overall, 2-3 league) will be another Schuylkill League showdown with Jim Thorpe on Thursday.
"This is kind of where we thought we'd be," said Barron. "I thought we played composed tonight and fought back in the second half. We didn't really play a bad defensive game, but we need to be better on offense."
Troxell 0-0-0-0, Carpenter 4-2-2-11, McDowell 3-5-7-11, Buchinsky 7-0-0-16, Mele 2-0-0-4, Howland 3-1-1-7, Venuto 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-8-10-49
Bonetsky 0-0-0-0, Stianche 0-0-0-0, Wassell 6-1-2-16, Kurek 0-0-0-0, Zuber 2-0-0-5, Knoblauch 1-0-0-3, Scott 1-2-2-5, Rother 2-2-6-6, Inama 2-1-4-5, G.Gregoire 0-1-3-1, L.Gregoire 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-7-17-41.
Lehighton 8 18 8 15 - 49
Tamaqua 8 10 13 10 - 41
Three-pointers: L - Buchinsky 2, Carpenter 1; T - Wassell 3, Knoblauch 1, Scott 1, Zuber 1.