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Northwestern wins third meeting

When Salisbury faced Northwestern a little over a week ago at the end of the regular season, Falcon girls basketball head coach Joe Mladosich noted that one of the big reasons the Falcons gave up a five-point halftime lead and eventually fell in overtime was their turnover numbers.

The way Saturday’s Colonial League quarterfinals played out gave Mladosich a feeling of déjà vu.

Despite jumping out to an early 5-0 lead, the Falcons were once again plagued by turnovers that cost them mightily. But this time it didn’t take as long for the avalanche to begin to fall. That early lead was quickly erased and turned into an 11-7 deficit and a 16-point hole at halftime as No. 4 seeded Northwestern defeated No. 5 Salisbury, 51-38, to advance to the league semifinal round.

“We had 20 turnovers again,” Mladosich said. “That’s all we practiced, limiting turnovers. Everything we worked on we didn’t do as a team today at all.”

Mladosich was also quick to note that Northwestern’s offensive rebounding had a lot to do with a 17-3 spurt in the second quarter that put the game out of reach. The Tigers’ Gabrielle Sevrain recorded a number of second-chance opportunities with four rebounds in the frame. Leighanna Lister, who scored 13 for the Tigers, made her presence felt in the first quarter, collecting five rebounds and five points.

“They did all of the fundamental things right,” Mladosich said. “They rebounded the ball; we didn’t rebound. They got second, third and fourth shots. It’s simple, basic things that we need to do better. That’s on me because we’re not doing them any better.”

But the player Salisbury didn’t have an answer for was Erika Thomas. The senior poured in a game-high 20 points. She hit three three-pointers in the first half that pushed Northwestern’s lead to 28-12 at the break.

In the second half, she took the role of an attacking guard, scoring all nine of her points in the final 16 minutes from layups or at the foul line as a result of driving to the hoop.

“We didn’t shoot very well at all,” Mladosich said. “We didn’t play very well. And all of the credit to Northwestern. I think that had a lot to do with how we played.”

The Tigers led by as much as 18 points in the third quarter and never let Salisbury get its deficit below a dozen.

Salisbury’s leading scorer, Lindsay Bauer, was held to just 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting after posting 20 and 27 in the two regular season meetings between the two teams.

“They played a 1-1-3, and then the two girls out front tried to play her and deny her the ball back,” Mladosich said. “She knows what to run and we never got into a set to run it. I don’t know if it was because of the game or what.”

Caylin Meikrantz hit two three-pointers and also scored 11 points for the Falcons. Paige Nicholas came off the bench and provided a spark in the second half with her hustle play and effort, leading to eight points on the offensive end of the court.

“Her [Nicholas’] effort is tremendous,” Mladosich said. “It’s tougher when they are pressing to get her in a lot, but I guess we need to start using her more because she is so effective.”

Northwestern advanced to play top-seeded Southern Lehigh on Tuesday night in one of two semifinals, while No. 2 Palisades and No. 6 Bangor squared off in the other game. The two winners are scheduled to face each other on Friday night at Freedom High School.

While Salisbury (12-10) l have an opportunity to make a run in the upcoming district tournament.

Seedings and matchups have yet to be determined, but the Falcons are seventh in the Class 2A district rankings. They will likely face either Palisades, Marian Catholic or Minersville in the first round.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZSalisbury's Caylin Meikrantz takes drives to the basket during Saturday's playoff game against Northwestern.