Olympians defeat Palmerton
Palmerton’s Kayla Cincilla (11) tries to split Jim Thorpe’s defense of Olivia Smelas, right, Leah Snisky and Kristen Scott. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
With Jim Thorpe, it’s pick your poison.
Palmerton head coach Dan Beck was well aware of the Olympians’ ability to get to the basket, so he took a chance early in Friday’s night non-league game by forcing the defending Schuylkill League champions to hit from the perimeter.
Leah Snisky and Leila Hurley both connected multiple times from outside in the opening quarter as Thorpe built a lead and eventually cruised to a 56-35 victory.
“We tried a little junk defense in the beginning to see what would happen,” said Beck. “They’re a great driving team ... and we wanted to see if they could shoot from the outside — and they can.
“They’re tough inside and outside. It’s tough to guard them when they have both aspects of the game going like that.”
Snisky’s 15-footer gave the Olympians a 4-3 lead and Hurley drained two three-pointers later in the first frame to up the margin to 12-5. Snisky knocked down another jumper toward the end of the period, which finished with Thorpe ahead by an 18-7 score.
“They kind of played three kids man and two were sitting in the middle, so they gave us some open looks,” said Olympian mentor Rob Kovac, whose team improved to 17-1. “We did some nice things with some screen action and freed up Leila a few times, and she hit some threes. And when (Snisky) shoots the ball like that, it really makes us a much better basketball team.”
Thorpe’s impressive shooting continued into the second quarter, as the visitors hit on seven of their 10 shots from the floor. Olivia Smelas connected from the inside three times, while the team also made seven free throws. That led to a 22-8 period and a 25-point halftime advantage.
“It’s tough to keep up with them, how quick they are, how schooled they are,” said Beck. “They pass the ball, they shoot the ball. They have their whole game together. They’re on a little different speed than we are right now. Hopefully we can get to that speed — even close to it would be great.”
The Blue Bombers (11-7) opened the second half on a 7-2 run that closed the gap to 20 and forced Kovac to call a timeout, but they would get no closer the rest of the night.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Beck. “They hung in there, they battled, they never gave up. And I think they opened (Jim Thorpe’s) eyes a little bit for a couple minutes here or there.”
Hurley paced the Olympians with a game-high 23 points (17 of them coming in the first half), while Smelas registered another double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Snisky chipped in with eight points.
The effort came just one night after defeating rival Tamaqua in an important league contest.
“We talked about it in pregame,” said Kovac about a possible letdown. “These kids are young, but they’re very mature. It certainly wasn’t a vintage performance from us by any stretch, and in the second half I think we ran out of legs.
“When you play back-to-back ... it’s always tough. That was our biggest concern tonight — do we have legs? I know (Palmerton) also played last night, but Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua has become pretty special, and we were concerened about our legs and our mindset. We passed on the mindset part for sure.”
OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS ... Thorpe’s Skyler Searfoss managed only five points in the game, but she did hand out eight assists and came up with six steals. For Palmerton, Bethie Morgan scored a team-high 14 points, including all seven of her team’s points in the first quarter.
SHOOTING SUCCESS ... The Olympians shot 19-of-35 during the first three quarters and also managed to get to the line 19 times, compared to the Bombers’ six during that span.
LOOKING AHEAD ... Both teams, who have clinched district playoff berths, close the regular season with four league games. Thorpe is almost a lock to make its league playoffs, while Palmerton is also in good shape for a Colonial League berth. “We made one goal (making districts), and the next one is hopefully to make league playoffs,” said Beck.
Cinicola 0-0-0-0, Scott 1-0-0-2, Snisky 3-2-2-8, Berger 0-0-0-0, Yuhas 1-2-2-4, Leight 0-0-0-0, Hurley 7-6-10-23, Searfoss 2-1-3-5, O. Smelas 5-4-4-14, Solt 0-0-0-0, Rosahac 0-0-0-0, H. Smelas 0-0-0-0, Craigie 0-0-2-0. TOTALS: 19-15-23-56.
Guedes 1-2-2-4, Molchan 0-0-0-0, Papay 0-1-2-1, Gursky 1-0-0-2, Cincilla 2-0-0-4, Recker 0-0-0-0, Balliet 0-0-0-0, Nemeth 1-1-2-4, Morgan 6-0-0-14, Moore 1-0-0-2, Nothstein 2-0-0-4, Smith 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-4-6-35.
Jim Thorpe 18 22 14 2 - 56
Palmerton 7 8 13 7 - 35
Three-pointers: Jim Thorpe - Hurley 3; Palmerton - Morgan 2, Nemeth 1.