Inside the game: A live action account of Panther Valley’s Pat Crampsie coaching his team
Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie delivers some instructions to his players during a timeout. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
From a coach’s perspective, basketball is a game of moving pieces upon a chessboard in the mind.
As his players run up and down the court, Panther Valley boys basketball coach Pat Crampsie directs them into the best positions to execute a game plan designed to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses and to minimize their strengths.
As fans watch a game unfold before their eyes, many are unaware of how coaches interact with and instruct their players during the heat of the battle.
Recently, the Times News was granted permission to get an upclose look at Crampsie and his staff on game night. Following is a live action account of Crampsie talking to his team inside the locker room before the game, and then coaching them from courtside during a home game against Lehighton.
Twenty minutes before the tipoff, Crampsie puts on his game face and calls his troops to order in the locker room. Assistant coach Keith Gogal reviews the scouting report with the players before Crampsie steps in to speak.
‘We control the tempo of the game. Make them work on offense. Pressure the ball. They miss. We go. Keep the pedal to the metal for 32 minutes Do not let up. If I see anyone walking the court, you’re coming out. This is a rivalry game and they’ll come out fired up. We do not get tired. We run the floor for 32 freakin’ minutes!’
Cheerleaders perform their routines. Fans shout out when the starting players are introduced. Crampsie has to elevate the volume of his voice to get the attention of his team before the opening tip.
The action begins.
‘Get into the lane and take the layup! Stop the ball. C’mon White! Stick with him. Get the rebound. Be strong! Good look. Go! Go! That’s it!’
After a whistle, Crampsie shouts for one of his players behind him to enter the game. He likes to rotate three or four substitutes to get a feel for who’s playing well and who’s not. If a player on the floor makes a mental mistake or doesn’t hustle, you’ll see him come out, sit down, and get a stern reprimand from the coaches.
Crampsie calls out a halfcourt offensive set play to his point guard.
As he dribbles, the others move to their predetermined positions to spread the defense and open up a space where a pass should give someone a good scoring opportunity.
Let’s go! Run Kentucky!
The play call fails. Crampsie is visibly upset. He calls timeout. He will stop the game either to get his players to refocus, or to prevent the opponent from gaining momentum and making a long run of consecutive points.
‘Get in here! Sit down! You’re not playing our game. You’re allowing penetration. You’re letting them fly right by you and set up their offense. Nobody’s boxing out after the shot. You gotta get after it! Get after them hard!’
The action resumes. The Panthers play so much better that Lehighton calls a timeout. Crampsie is happier with his team’s effort, but isn’t totally satisfied.
‘We’re doing a better job on defense, but not on offense. Don’t try to dribble through their 3-2 zone. Look for passing lanes. Make this next possession a good one. Get after it. Let’s go boys!’
The game resumes. He pushes his Panthers to step it up on defense.
‘D up! D up! Watch backside. Talk to each other. Pressure the ball. Don’t give him the baseline.’ (PV forces a turnover) ‘Good job! Way to get after it!’ (Panthers now on offense) ‘Run the play all the way through!’
Panther Valley takes a one-point lead into the third quarter. The first few minutes of play do not please Crampsie. His team falls behind by six. With under two minutes to play in the quarter, he calls timeout.
‘You gotta toughen up! Get that look off your faces right now. I told you they would come to play. You’re not moving. You’re not running the pick and roll and the screen and kick like we talked about. We’re getting nothing! You’re weak! Weak passes. Weak defense. We gotta get this game right now. Go get it!’
Rene Figueroa, who scores all 12 of Panther Valley’s points in the quarter, drops down a triple to cut his team’s deficit to three going into the final eight minutes.
Right from the start of the fourth quarter, the Panthers respond to Crampsie’s scolding. They grab a 45-44 lead with four minutes to play. The PV coaches are up, shouting over the cheerleaders who scream “Defense!” and over the loud roar of the home crowd. The Panthers make an inspired comeback and their momentum revs up the energy in the gymnasium.
‘Pressure the ball! Get ‘em in the backcourt! Cut off the pass. That’s it! Good “D.” Stay with it. Go to the ball. Guys, keep your focus! Stay with it!’
Lehighton, however, battles back to tie the game, 50-50 with 1:45 left to play. Panther Valley scores on a foul shot and a put back after a miss that gives them a 55-52 lead with 52 seconds on the clock.
The Indians call timeout.
Crampsie fires an ultimatum at the players he has chosen to finish the game.
‘You gotta keep the pressure. Wear them down, but don’t foul.’ (The noise level in the gym is deafening now). ‘Listen up! Run Syracuse when we get the ball. They’re gonna have to foul. Take a breath and make the free throws. If you get in trouble with the ball, call timeout. We can’t have a turnover. Look at me! Look at me!’ (His players stare back at him) ‘Finish it!’
Not until the Panthers get to a four-point, two-possession lead with 12 seconds to go does Crampsie take the edge off his voice. Victory is certain and the horn sounds to a final score of 58-54.
Like most coaches, win or lose, Crampsie will replay the game in his mind later that night. He’ll assess what worked and what didn’t.
That’s high school basketball – inside and outside the game.
The Times News would like to thank Pat Crampsie, his staff, and his players for allowing Rich Strack to sit courtside with them to record the coaches’ vocal instructions to the team so that our readers can get a look behind the scene.
TAMAQUA TREYS ... Tamaqua’s Brayden Knoblauch had a big game against Nativity on Dec. 22, hitting eight three-pointers during a 37-point performance.
The eight treys by Knoblauch tied a Blue Raiders boys record, matching Phil Malay’s total on Jan. 16, 1999.
PANTHERS FROM THE PERIMETER ... In a victory over Marian on Dec. 27, Panther Valley drained 15 three-pointers.
That total set a new school record, breaking the old mark of 14 set on Jan. 18, 2013.
Trey Turner had eight of the treys, with Rene Figueroa contributing five of them. Turner’s eight threes nearly tied an individual record at PV. That mark is nine, which was done twice by Jake Szczecina.
HOLIDAY HOOP HAPPENINGS ... Three local teams picked up holiday tournament victories. They included the Pleasant Valley girls, Marian girls and Northern Lehigh boys.
Pleasant Valley took Lehighton’s Lady Indian Classic, defeating Palmerton in the final, with Cameron Caffrey earning the tourney’s Most Valuable Player award.
Northern Lehigh picked up wins over Jim Thorpe and Lehighton to defend its own Slatington Rotary Tournament. Brandon Hess captured MVP honors, while Palmerton’s Nate Dougherty, Lehighton’s Zach Crum and Zach Hunsicker, and the Olympians’ Nate Rosahac were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Marian girls edged Linden Hall before downing host Lebanon Catholic to claim the Lebanon Catholic Holiday Tournament. The Fillies, led by 21 points from Emily Shaud during the tourney, allowed only 19 points in the championship game.
AREA SUCCESS ... Going into Monday’s games, the Times News area girls teams have combined to post a record of 70-29.
Jim Thorpe remains undefeated at 9-0, while Pleasant Valley is 9-1 (having recently dropped its first game of the season to Northampton).
Northwestern has qualified for the District 11 playoffs and sports an 11-1 record. Three other teams own a mark of 7-2 — Tamaqua, Marian and Weatherly.
TIGERS IN DISTRICTS ... The Northwestern girls became the first District 11 team to clinch a playoff berth when it defeated Salisbury last Friday.
The Blue Mountain boys joined the Tigers the next day when they earned their 11th win.
Ironically, despite clinching playoff berths, the teams are not the top seeds in their respective classes.
Northwestern is third in the 3A girls behind Bethlehem Catholic and Jim Thorpe, while the Eagles are second in class 5A, trailing Pottsville.
FROSH FACES ... Four Times News area freshmen are making immediate impacts this season.
Palmerton’s Brianna Moore, and a trio of Jim Thorpe players — Skyler Searfoss, Leila Hurley and Olivia Smelas — are all in the area’s list of top scorers.
Moore, who is fourth in the area with a 17.90 points-per-game average, has 18 three-pointers, shoots 62 percent at the free-throw line, and has had three games of 20-or-more points. She had a career-high 24 at Moravian Academy, 23 against Palisades, and 21 against Jim Thorpe.
For Jim Thorpe, Searfoss leads her team in scoring with 17.33 ppg (fifth in the area). She tallied a career-high 28 against Tamaqua, and also had 24 against Palmerton. She is also second in the area in free-throw shooting, connecting at a .783 percentage (54-69).
Teammate Hurley is the team’s top outside shooting threat with 14 treys, and is in eighth on the scoring list with 13.11 ppg. She scored a career-high 28 points in a non-league victory over Pen Argyl.
Smelas, who rounds out the area’s top 10 in scoring with 12.11 ppg, has compiled five double-doubles, and is one of the team’s top passers from the paint.