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Tigers top NL, Wilson

Northwestern Lehigh came into last week with an 8-8 record and in need of a couple of big wins.

The Tigers got the wins, but it wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart.

First up was a 62-60 win in double overtime against Wilson when Andres Garrido took an inbound pass and sank it with just 0.7 on the clock. The next night, the Tigers got some hot three-point shooting from Nick Henry and timely defense to pick up a 46-38 win over Northern Lehigh. The win puts Northwestern at 10-8 overall on the season and 7-7 in the Colonial League as it battles for spots in both the league and district playoffs.

Henry came up big with a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 33-31. When the final quarter opened, he hit a second three-pointer from almost the exact same spot to put the Tigers back in the lead for the first time since midway through the third.

“After that first one, I just knew I was hot and I just started putting up more – a couple of them I probably shouldn’t have – and it turned out that we needed them,” said Henry, who finished with 11 points on the night.

After the teams exchanged foul shots and the game was tied, Henry again hit from beyond the arc and put the Tigers up 38-35 with 5:08 left in the game. From that point, Northwestern was able to hold on to the lead and stretch it out late in the game with good foul shooting from Sean McCann and Luke Hallman, who combined to hit five-of-six from the foul line.

“Nick’s three-pointer at the end of the third quarter was really big,” said coach Billy Hallman. “That one gave us a little confidence and then he stayed hot and got a couple more and it really led us through the rest of the game.”

Three-pointers were the story of the night early on as the two teams combined for five three-pointers in the first quarter, with McCann hitting two for Northwestern. Henry also put Northwestern up at the end of the first quarter when he hit a jumper with :03 left to make it a 12-10 game. McCann sank his third three-pointer of the night with 6:24 left in the second quarter, giving the Tigers a 16-14 edge.

Northern Lehigh’s Zach Moyer forced another lead change when he drained a three-pointer with 3:53 left to play in the second quarter, putting the Bulldogs up 19-18 and Grant Olewine hit Northern Lehigh’s fourth three-pointer with 1:46 left in the first half, giving the Bulldogs (4-15 overall, 3-11 Colonial League) their biggest lead of the game at the time, with a 24-19 advantage.

The Tiger defense seemed to stiffen as the game wore on and it allowed Northern Lehigh just five points over the final nine minutes of the game. Northwestern put together seven unanswered points in the last quarter ahead of McCann and Luke Hallman’s foul shooting to put the game away.

“We’re not going to just give up and back down from anybody,” said Henry. “We’re fighting for that last playoff spot because we really want to get into the league playoffs and districts, so we’re not going to go away.”

Northern Lehigh is battling for the final spot in the Colonial League playoffs with Salisbury and Bangor, with all three teams holding 7-7 league records. Salisbury has wins over both Northwestern and Bangor this season, but also has a home game against the Tigers Friday night that could go a long way to determining Northwestern’s playoff hopes.

To qualify for the District 11 tournament, teams have to have a .500 or better record either overall or in their league. At 10-8, Northwestern needs just one win to clinch a .500 record overall. Three of the Tigers’ four remaining games are against Colonial League opponents Pen Argyl (2-16, 1-13), Salisbury (10-9, 7-7) and Catasauqua (7-12, 6-8). They also have a nonleague game against Lehighton (6-11, 3-7 Schuylkill League). Salisbury and Catasauqua are also looking for spots in districts as the season winds down.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZA Nick Henry three-pointer late in Friday's game against Northern Lehigh helped the Tigers overcome the Bulldogs.