Thorpe flexes muscles in showdown
Jim Thorpe’s Skyler Searfass (left) and Tamaqua’s Emma Kuczynski chase a loose ball. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Basketball purists would drool over them.
Their coach calls them a bit of a “throw back.”
The Jim Thorpe girls’ basketball team went “old school” to hand Tamaqua a 54-42 Schuylkill League loss Thursday.
Where the Olympians (16-1; 10-0) excelled was shooting the high percentage shot in and around the paint as they took just one shot from beyond the arc in the game. Couple that precision offense with some outstanding defense and it was too much for the Raiders to overcome.
Thorpe, which is fundamentally sound on both ends of the floor, displayed once again why it is favored to cop its second straight Division I Schuylkill League title.
The Olympians are far from fancy — they’re more about execution. Always looking for the good shot, making the pass inside, and getting to the other end of the floor to defend.
“They came out man and we thought we had an advantage, so we wanted to pound the ball inside,” said Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac. “I thought our guards were able to get some penetration early in the game, which created a lot of good shots for us. That helped us get a bit of a lead.
“This was a nice win, because Tamaqua is a really good basketball team.”
Kovac said another key to the Olympian victory was a switch to a 2-1-2 zone that enabled his players to trap and force turnovers. The defense gave Tamaqua’s offense plenty of trouble.
“We didn’t want to show them our 3-2 zone for 32 minutes, so we changed it up from the first time we played them,” said Kovac.
Meanwhile, the Jim Thorpe offense once again displayed a magnitude of weapons.
Skyler Searfoss juiced the twines for 26 points, Leila Hurley drained 16 points, while Olivia Smelas added seven points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“You know, they’ve got so much balance, it’s not two players (scoring), and that’s something that has hurt us all season,” said Tamaqua coach Erika Davis, referring to her 1-2 punch of Emma Kuczynski and Emily Titus. “We need to get more scoring help.”
As usual, Kuczynski (17 points) and Titus (13) were the only players in double figures for Tamaqua.
Tamaqua shot out in front to a 10-6 lead in the opening quarter behind Kuczynski’s four points. But Thorpe answered over the final three minutes to saunter in front 16-12, getting four points from Searfoss before Hurley sank a shot for the lead, which the Olympians never relinquished the rest of the way.
When the Olympians extended the lead to 26-17 early in the second quarter, it felt like the momentum was going to bury the Raiders. However Titus came to the rescue with a pair of buckets before Kuczynski sank two foul shots to cut the deficit to 26-21 at the half.
Then Thorpe methodically began to roll. Searfoss hit for six points, Snisky hit a short jumper, and when the third period closed the advantage was 40-30.
“This was a big-time atmosphere,” said Kovac. “This is what basketball at this time of the year is all about. It’s the next step in our transition ... one game at a time, one step towards Martz Hall.”
REGULAR SEASON SWEEP ... It was the second victory for Jim Thorpe over the Raiders (12-3; 6-3) this season.
ABOUT THE SHOOTING … Jim Thorpe went 22-for-37 from the floor, while Tamaqua was 16-for-59. The Raiders took 16 shots from three-point range, making just three.
MUST WIN … Tamaqua is now three games behind Jim Thorpe in the league race, and two games behind North Schuylkill for second place and a berth in the league playoffs. That puts it in a must-win situation the rest of the way. It must defeat North Schuylkill next Thursday on the road, and then would more than likely need a Thorpe win over the Spartans on the final regular season playing date Feb. 6 to create a tie for second place.
Scott 0-0-0-0, Snisky 2-1-2-5, Berger 0-0-0-0, Yuhas 0-0-0-0, Hurley 6-3-4-16, Searfoss 11-4-6-26, Smelas 3-1-2-7, Craigie 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-9-14-54.
Kane 1-0-0-3, Zuber 2-2-3-6, Hromyak 0-0-0-0, Boyle 0-1-2-1, Titus 6-0-1-13, Frederickson 0-0-0-0, Kuczynski 6-4-5-17, Reinhardt 1-0-1-2. TOTALS: 16-7-12-42.
Jim Thorpe 16 10 14 14 - 54
Tamaqua 12 9 9 12 - 42
Three-pointers: Jim Thorpe - Hurley 1; Tamaqua - Kane 1, Titus 1, Kuczynski 1.