Pat Shields is one of the most respected basketball coaches in the area and he came armed with a brilliant gameplan Tuesday night.
North Pocono's veteran mentor decided to obey an ages old axiom that, paraphrased, basically says: Don't let the other team's best player beat you.
With that thought in mind, Coach Shields conjured a defense designed specifically to contain Jake Brown. From opening tip to final buzzer, Paupack's star point guard encountered a double team trap each time he reached midcourt ... a fact that forced him to give up the ball much sooner than normal.
The result, at least in the early going, was exactly what Coach Shields envisioned.
Brown was effectively neutralized on offense and North Pocono raced out to an early lead. What the Trojans didn't count on was that two Buckhorns would throw a monkey wrench into the works.
Thanks in large part to the play of John Steffen and Nico Tereschak, Paupack outscored the visitors in each of the final three quarters en route to a wild 48-44 win.
"Jake Brown is an amazing player, but he's not Superman," Coach Rich McGinnis said.
"When other teams do things to try and take Jake out of the mix, we have to be poised and show some character. In years past, we really didn't have anyone to step up and make a difference. Tonight, though, John and Nico did step up and I'm very proud of them."
With this victory, Paupack improved its overall record to 11-5. The Buckhorns are now 5-2 in the Lackawanna League and trail only Delaware Valley (6-2) in the Division Two standings.
Coach McGinnis' club is moving into the toughest portion of its schedule.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Paupack must play road games at Abington Heights and West Scranton in addition to home games against Honesdale and DV.
Page 2 of 3 - "We're definitely going to learn an awful lot about ourselves as a team," said Coach McGinnis. "We're starting to come down to the wire now and every game is big. We can't afford any letdowns."
North Pocono's combination of suffocating defense and balanced scoring led to a 15-9 lead after the first quarter.
The Trojans scored the first six points of the game, silencing a boisterous crowd and forcing Coach McGinnis to burn a quick timeout. Steffen finally got Paupack on the board with a free throw, just the first of many big plays the sophomore forward would contribute on this particular night.
"I could really see the effects of that lay-off," Coach McGinnis said of his team's weather induced hiatus. "It really took us awhile to get going. We were rusty and it showed."
Marty Kelly ended the opening stanza with an exclamation point, drilling a deep trey from the left wing as time expired. Kelly would go on to tally a game-high 16 points on the strength of four 3-balls.
Steffen began asserting himself in the second quarter, terrorizing Trojan defenders from the perimeter and the paint. John would power his way to 14 points on the strength of two field goals, two treys and four free throws.
It was a well-balanced performance that drew rave reviews from Coach McGinnis.
"You know what? For a sophomore, John Steffen has an great deal of confidence. He's definitely not afraid to take the big shot. I was very pleaseed to see John put the ball on the floor and attack the basket."
North Pocono continued focusing its defensive efforts on Brown, but Jake still managed to shake loose now and again. Division Two's top scorer battled his way to a team-best 15 points.
Paupack trailed 26-21 at intermission after Kelly drilled another trey just before the buzzer. However, the Bucks slowly whittled away at North Pocono's advantage all through the second half.
Page 3 of 3 - Comeback Trail
Tereschak struggled in the early stages of this game, but ratcheted up his game in the fi al two quarters.
Nico powered his way to five points in the paint, none bigger than a clutch bucket midway through the fourth period. Tereschak's 12' turnaround jay put the Bucks on top and brought the crowd to its feet.
"Nico cares deeply about his game and he works very hard every day at practice," he said. "Nico came up with some big rebounds and played pretty good defense, too. If we want to go anywhere this season, Nico needs to play a big role."
Anthony Bouselli also played a key role down the stretch. Paupack's junior forward rattled the rims for 10 points while Jamel Blanding and Eric Miller added two apiece.
Score by Quarters...
WA (5-2) 9 12 12 13 - 48
NP (2-6) 15 11 11 7 - 44