Blue Mountain holds off Jim Thorpe
At times they appeared to be over-matched, but they were never overwhelmed.
Even when they fell behind by 10 points early in the third period, Jim Thorpe refused to wither in the final minutes against a quality Blue Mountain team.
In the end, however, the Olympians dropped a 37-30 Schuylkill League decision to the visiting Eagles.
“We hung around for sure,” said Thorpe head coach Nadia Gauronsky. “But we just didn’t have enough firepower on offense.”
Utilizing a relentless zone defense, the Olympians forced Blue Mountain into 13 first-half turnovers and 21 for the game.
Their tenaciousness kept the Eagles’ lead to under double digits until Emily Heydt’s jump shot with 5:35 left in the third quarter.
But a layup and a three-pointer by Jim Thorpe’s Emily Dart, and another triple from beyond the arc by Gabby Cinicola, cut the margin to four points at 25-21 with 2:40 left in the period.
In the fourth frame, Heydt’s driving layup increased Blue Mountain’s lead back to nine at 31-22, but Cinicola dropped another three to cut the margin to six points.
With 3:20 left to play, the Olympians trailed by just five after a layup by Brianna Snisky and a free throw from Mackenzie Yuhas, but their brief rally ended. With time running out, they were forced to send the Eagles to the foul line, where the visitors sealed the victory.
Guaronsky praised her team’s never-quit effort, but after the game she emphasized the importance of each possession to her players.
“Every possession matters in these close games,” Gauronsky said. “We have to keep our games low scoring like this one, but when we have the ball, we’ve got to work for better shots.”
Thorpe’s only lead in the game came 20 seconds after the center court tip when Yuhas floated a jumper in the lane.
The Eagles (17-3; 10-2) then went on a 7-0 run on two free throws from Heydt, and a triple and a layup off a steal by Eva Peel.
A three-ball by Cinicola made the score 7-5, before Blue Mountain tallied five of the final seven points scored in the period for a 12-7 advantage.
In the second, JT’s defense forced 10 Eagle turnovers, but it could only muster six points in the entire eight minutes on a trey from Yuhas, a baseline pull-up jumper from Cinicola, and a free throw by Sarah Hartman.
The second period had 16 combined turnovers as both teams had great difficulty taking care of the basketball.
Thorpe (10-9; 5-7) failed to score in double digits for each of the four periods, but still managed to stay within close striking range, trailing by just five points at 35-30 with under three minutes left.
“We’ve been in a lot of very close games,” said Gauronsky. “We lost to Tamaqua, Lehighton, and Western Wayne with just seconds left, but after losing three starters this year and playing through injuries, it’s a tribute to our kids to show how much we’ve gotten improvement despite our inexperience.
“We preach that we’re all in this together, and we do the best we can at practices to set them up for success.”
Blue Mountain’s Conway led all scorers with 12 points. Cinicola paced the Olympians with 11.
FOUR ON THE FLOOR … In the JV game only six players suited up for Thorpe and two fouled out in the final minutes, leaving just four players to finish the contest won by Blue Mountain, 33-17.
SENIOR SPOTLIGHT … It was Senior Appreciation Night at Jim Thorpe. Senior Haley Smelas - who was injured - was allowed to score a ceremonial basket before the actual game had begun.
WIN AND THEY’RE IN … The Olympians need to win one of their final three regular season games against North Schuylkill, Pine Grove, or Nativity to officially qualify for the District 11 playoffs.
Conway 4-2-2-12, Heydt 4-2-3-11, Peel 2-2-2-7, Baldwin 2-0-2-4, Keck 2-0-0-2, Hardy 0-1-2-1. Faust 0-0-0-0, Wagner 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-7-11-37.
Cincicola 4-0-0-11, Yuhas 3-3-4-10, Dart 2-1-2-6, Snisky 1-0-2-2, Hartman 0-1-2-1, Ginopalas 0-0-0-0, Smelas 0-0-0-0, K. Patton 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 10-5-10-30.
Blue Mtn. 12 7 10 8 - 37
Jim Thorpe 7 6 9 8 - 30
Three-pointers: BM - Conway 2, Heydt 1, Peel 1. JT - Cinicola 3, Dart 1, Yuhas 1.