COAL TOWNSHIP — It takes quite a long time to amass 700 wins in any sport, and Lourdes Regional girls basketball coach Mike Klembara, who hit that number Monday in the Red Raiders' 42-26 win over Schuylkill League rival Nativity, never thought he would be around that long.
"When I retired from public education at Shamokin, that was around 2000 or 2003, I had a honey-do list that was quite long," Klembara said in his office after the Red Raiders improved to 10-3 overall. "But at that time John McKay was the principal here and he asked me to teach religion. Then, they lost a math teacher and I did that, and shortly after Lee Korbich and John Brennan died, and they needed help, and here I am.
"It (700) is just a number. Never did I think that I'd be around this long to achieve that kind of goal. The most important thing is seeing kids you've coached come around four or six years later with a degree, or maybe going on to be a doctor, or something like that."
"It's amazing to share this with him," said senior co-captain Lily Bickel, who scored 19 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, hitting 7 of 8 shots from the floor, including three threes. "I feel like over the past four years, winning as a team has been so great and when we do, it really creates a bond each time."
Part of that bond showed in the way Bickel and fellow senior captain Frances Czeponis worked together as Lourdes built a 32-17 lead in the first half over the Golden Girls (7-5) in the Division 2-3 crossover game. The pair worked the give-and-go to near-perfection. Czeponis had all five of her assists and four of her six blocked shots in the first half.
"It (the give-and-go) really works, especially when I make my layups," Bickel said. "She (Czeponis) is looking all the time when I cut."
"I like when we get contributions from everybody," Klembara said. "The ideal game would be for everyone to score 10 points. Tonight some of the other girls did good things, too. Katie (Sandri) had a couple big baskets and Sierra (Coleman) made some big steals."
But Lourdes cooled down in the second half, scoring just 10 points after the break and shooting just 3-for-13 from the floor after a first half shooting 73 percent (13-for-18). But Nativity could never significantly cut into the lead and only scored nine points in the second half.
Samantha Heenan had eight points and eight rebounds for the Golden Girls, who turned the ball over 19 times.
Klembara said the team has made great strides since a 33-point loss to Southern Columbia in the Bob Probert Holiday Tournament at Shamokin over the holidays.
"One of the things we recognized was developing our quickness," Klembara said. "We've also been fortunate in that we haven't had any kind of injuries that would alter what we want to do. I think our win at Weatherly last week, when we were down nine in the fourth quarter and won by two, showed a lot in terms of our grittiness. But we have a long road ahead. We go to Williamsport on Wednesday, then at Tri-Valley and and at Sullivan County."
Lourdes Regional 42, Nativity 26
Stavinski 2 0-0 4, Heenan 2 4-6 8, Zemantauski 2 0-0 5, Hunyara 2 0-0 5, Clarke 1 0-0 2, Polinsky 1 0-0 2.
Sandri 3 0-0 6, Coleman 1 2-4 4, Bickel 8 4-6 23, F. Czeponis 4 1-2 9.
Three-point shooting: Nativity (2-8) — Stavinski 0-1, Heenan 0-3, Zemantauski 1-2, Hunyara 1-2. Lourdes (3-8) -- Sandri 0-1, Coleman 0-2, Bickel 3-5.
JV: Lourdes 41 (Terri Reichard 8, Morgan Munson 7), Nativity 12.