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Thorpe routs PV to stay unbeaten

Published January 10. 2019 12:31PM

Jim Thorpe’s splendid and undefeated girls basketball team did some household chores Wednesday before its first major test of the season Friday at home against Blue Mountain.

Like a hot iron, the Olympians pressed the pants and the suit off of Panther Valley to run their record to 11-0 in a most-impressive 62-14 victory.

There was never a doubt about the outcome. The Olympians used their quickness, court awareness and unselfish play to jump out to a 21-2 lead in less than a half quarter.

These Olympians are the real deal, and the team starts three freshmen, one a junior and one senior.

“I’m not going there,” said veteran JT head coach Rob Kovac when asked about the winding and untested road ahead.

So far in the Schuylkill Girls Basketball League, this team is 5-0 with perennial powers Blue Mountain, Tamaqua and North Schuylkill all champing at the bit for a piece of the excitement.

“I thought we would be good, and where we are right now I thought it would be at the end of the season,” said Kovac. “We’ve matured a lot quicker than we really thought would happen. But there’s a heck of a lot more basketball to be played.”

There are shining stars up-and-down the lineup, and Kovac would assess his team to be good, but with potential greatness on the horizon. What energized Wednesday’s result was the full-court pressure, that led to 14 first-quarter turnovers by Panther Valley, and a 2-for-11 effort from the field.

“That’s our game,” said Kovac, who once coached at Panther Valley where he turned into a juggernaut of sorts. “We want to put that type of pressure on the other team. What we lack is depth. We’re starting to get better (with injuries) and are slowly getting time for some other kids to help us out as we get into the tougher part of our schedule.”

Once the gong went off to open the game, senior Natalia Richards (eight points) and freshman Skyler Searfoss (14 points) led the way. Richards opened with a bucket. Searfoss cashed in for a pair of baskets off turnovers, and then freshman sling-shot southpaw Leila Hurley (22 points) buried a triple. And the team’s rhythm was never interrupted — save for a deuce from PV’s Riley Wehr — and by that time it was 14-2 with only three minutes expired.

Jim Thorpe showed off the lanky inside work of 6-foot freshman Oliva Smelas (eight points, nine rebounds), who dropped in a pair of baskets off the post. Kristen Scott glided to the basket for two more points before Hurley let loose with two baskets for a 32-4 lead.

“What makes us so good is we play as a team, no one individual,” said Kovac. “As long as we stay together and improve, this team is going to be fun. We got size inside with Liv, we have that special outside play of Searfoss, and Leila. Scott gives us a steady player who is heady, and Richards can really hit the outside shot.”

Now the drum will start to sound louder, and the fun really starts for a team that has suddenly taken center stage in one of the toughest girls basketball leagues in the state.

“We’ve got to be ready for (Blue Mountain) Friday night in our place,” said Kovac.

HOW IMPRESSIVE … Those who want to see old school basketball, should plan to watch the Olympians. They resemble the North Schuylkill and Marian teams of the 80s, the Mahanoy’s of the late 80s and 90s, and Minersville of late. They’re talented, know how to distribute the ball, find the open area of the court and can buzz up and down the floor.

PEDAL TO THE MEDAL … Kovac is a smart coach. He pulled the reigns back in the second quarter and inserted subs freely. He began the second half with three starters and two non-starters.

JACKING IT UP … The Olympians sizzled, shooting 13-for-24 in the first quarter; 8-for-14 in the second; and 4-for-9 in the third. That’s 25-for-45 over three quarters with many of those misses coming from the second team.

GLASS CLEANING … Jim Thorpe had 54 rebounds, led by Smelas with nine. Richards, Searfoss and Hurley each had five boards. Taylor Craigie had six rebounds off the bench. Steady PV sophomore Erika Dubosky collared nine of her team’s 32 rebounds.

PANTHER VALLEY

Pascoe 2-0-0-6, Wehr 1-2-2-4, Dubosky 1-0-2-2, Markovich 1-0-0-2, Steber 0-0-0-0, Vermillion 0-0-0-0, Filer 0-0-0-0, Jones 0-0-0-0, Iudicell 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 5-2-4-14.

JIM THORPE

Hurley 9-1-1-22, Searfoss 6-2-2-14, Richards 3-0-0-8, Smelas 4-0-0-8, Snisky 2-0-0-4, Solt 1-0-0-2, Scott 1-0-0-2, Berger 1-0-0-2, McArdle 0-0-0-0, Rosahac 0-0-0-0, Craigie 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 27-3-3-62.

Panther Valley 4 2 3 5 - 14

Jim Thorpe 32 18 8 4 – 62

Three-pointers: PV – Pascoe 2. JT – Hurley 3, Richards 2

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