Girls look to play as much as possible
The Northwestern Lehigh girls basketball team goes into every season with aspirations of winning league and district titles. This season is no different since the Tigers have a strong returning core of players and some younger players who are ready to step into holes and contribute.
Instead of talking about championships though, head coach Chris Deutsch is talking simply about playing games, as many games as possible. With the coronavirus erupting in the colder months, Deutsch’s goal may be as lofty as winning any championship.
“This season is different,” said Deutsch, who also serves as the school’s assistant athletic director. “We’re just going to focus on playing as many games as possible for these girls and we’re not focusing on what championships we can win; heck, we don’t even know if there will even be playoffs. We’re not even focusing on who we play, it’s just a matter of scheduling as many games as possible against any team that we can play, whether they’re a big school or a small school.”
Deutsch and other coaches know that the season could be shutdown at any moment because of the pandemic. Teams may have to cancel games and the schedule will likely be a day-by-day endeavor, but Deutsch and athletic director Jason Zimmerman are determined to not have their players lose much of the season.
If there are playoffs, figure on the Tigers being a part of them. Northwestern Lehigh returns three starters in Kailyn Jones, Paige Sevrain and Ali Lister, who Deutsch believes is one of the best defensive players in the area. The experience gives Northwestern Lehigh a strong core of players that they can rely on this season. Add to that players like Caitlyn Miller and Tess Ledeboer, who have both played well in camp this fall, and Deutsch has a pretty good team.
“Tess Ledeboer has been really good in camp,” said Deutsch. “She does all of the little things that make us better. She can be physical on the court; she grabs rebounds and plays hard. Miller has really been good, too and they’re both really working hard.”
Deutsch has found that the new rule of having players wear masks even when in the game has necessitated more breaks because his players get tired faster. It’s a change that every team must get used to as do the coaches and referees, who also must be always masked. Because of the rule, Deutsch plans on going deeper into his bench and use as many as 10 players per game rather than the usual seven or eight he would normally rely on using.
“We have enough players so that we can go deeper,” Deutsch said. “The girls do get more tired [wearing masks] and we’ve had to take more breaks during practice. Using more players though also adds to the competition because girls know they have a shot at playing and they tend to work a little harder.”
Deutsch not only has found a positive in the new mask rule, but he believes that the player’s workouts being somewhat limited during the summer and early fall may also bring a bit of a silver lining.
“I think sometimes that playing and working out so much wears kids down and can lead to some injuries,” he said. “I think maybe there should be a week or two where we just have no sports and let kids rest a little.”
In addition to reduced workouts, Deutsch also had several girls come in late because their fall sports season went deep into districts, but he points to their added conditioning as being a plus.
While Deutsch is ready to concede that some of the younger players may have been slowed somewhat by reduced playing time during the offseason, the more experienced players simply needed to get back on the court and pick up where they left off.
“Most of the older players just needed to shake off some rust,” said Deutsch. “They stayed in shape and know what they have to do, so it was just getting back on the court with the other girls and getting back into a groove. Again, it’s something that every school had to deal with, so to me it’s not a big deal.”