Tamaqua pounds Pine Grove
Tamaqua’s near perfect start on offense gave it the lead.
But it was the Blue Raiders’ smoothering defense that made sure that early advantage turned into a victory.
Tamaqua placed four players in double figures on Friday, as it rolled to a 67-39 Schuylkill League win over undermanned Pine Grove.
“We played very well offensively early in the game,” said Tamaqua coach Jim Barron. “But the thing I’m probably most happy about is how we turned up our defensive intensity and pressure after the first quarter.
“We built a nice first quarter lead thanks to our offense, but I challenged our kids in the huddle between quarters to step up defensively. We allowed 14 first quarter points, which is way too much, but I was really happy with how we responded the rest of the way.”
Despite what Barron called “poor defensive play” in the opening quarter, Tamaqua still held a comfortable 23-14 lead thanks to a 9-for-10 shooting display from the field. The Raiders then went out and hit their first five shots of the second quarter.
Derian Stianche had 11 of his game-high 14 points during the Raiders’ sizzling 14-for-15 start to the game. He also added a pair of assists during that run.
“We have a really unselfish team,” said Stianche. “I think you saw that tonight. Everyone on the court is a good passer, and we all are looking to make that extra pass.
“It’s about ball movement and finding the open teammate. We’re always looking to find the open man and always trying to get a higher percentage shot.”
The Raiders did that time-and-time again as they picked up assists on 12 of their first 14 field goals, many on sensational feeds that led to wide-open looks.
Stianche had plenty of help at the offensive end as Lucas Gregoire (14 points), Brayden Knoblauch (12) and Mike Bonetsky (10) also hit double figures. All four players also played key roles in distributing the ball, as Knoblauch and Bonetsky had four assists each while Stianche and Gregoire had three apiece.
“Our offensive execution in the first half was about as good as its been all year,” said Barron. “That’s a credit to the way our kids share the ball and look for one another.”
For as good as the Raiders (11-4, 6-2) played offensively, however, it was the defense that had Barron most excited.
After allowing the 14 first quarter points, Tamaqua held Pine Grove to five points during the next 14:40, including just two points in the second quarter. That helped turn the nine-point first-quarter advantage into a 41-16 halftime lead and a 49-19 edge late in the third quarter when most of the starters exited the game.
“Pine Grove was missing a couple of starters tonight, so they were a little shorthanded, but our kids never relaxed or got overconfident,” said Barron. “Our offense helped us get off to a good start and then our defense allowed us to pull away.”
HOT SHOTS ... The torrid start allowed Tamaqua to shoot 28-for-50 (56 percent) from the field. Pine Grove (7-8) was just 14-for-54 (26 percent), including one stretch during the second and third quarters where it was 2-for-23.
CLINCHER ... The victory secures the Raiders a District 11 playoff berth.
MISSING CARDINALS ... Starters Dawson Ibarra and Andrew Griffiths didn’t play for Pine Grove.
Lengle 1-0-0-2, Leininger 1-0-0-2, C. Griffiths 2-1-2-7, Culbert 0-0-0-0, Pena 0-2-2-2, C. Ibarra 0-1-4-1, D. Geesey 1-0-0-3, Hlavaty 1-2-2-4, K. Geesey 5-0-0-12. TOTALS: 14-6-10-39
Bonetsky 4-0-0-10, Stianche 6-0-1-14, Griffin 1-0-0-3, Knoblauch 5-0-0-12, Bollentino 1-0-0-2, Zehner 1-0-0-2, Gutierrez 0-0-0-0, Agosti 2-0-0-4, N. Gregoire 0-0-0-0, L. Gregoire 5-4-5-14, Stauffenberg 3-0-0-6. TOTALS: 28-4-6-67.
Pine Grove 14 2 10 13 - 39
Tamaqua 23 18 13 13 - 67
Three-pointers: Pine Grove - Griffiths 2, K. Geesey 2, D. Geesey 1; Tamaqua - Bonetsky 2, Stiache 2, Knoblauch 2, Griffin 1.