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Witkowski blocks ND to seal win

In a timeout very late in the game against Notre Dame (Green Pond), Northwestern Lehigh (7-2 Colonial League, 10-4 overall) coach Jerry Lloyd told his players to not allow a shot or at least not an open shot. Dylan Witkowski took that message to heart and preserved a 58-57 with by tipping a last-second shot by Joe Galle harmlessly toward midcourt.

Crusaders coach Pat Boyle knew that the Tigers would cover Brendan Boyle from head-to-toe, so he came up with a Plan-B. With Boyle effectively taken out of the play, the ball went to Galle, who had Witkowski in front of him right by the three-point arc to the left of the basket.

Witkowski wasn’t going to allow Galle to be a hero and quickly reached up to swat the shot away and preserve the win.

“We had just talked during the timeout that we didn’t want to let them get a shot off, or at least not an easy shot, and we executed really well, and I just reached out as soon as I saw him going up for the shot and got a hand on it,” said Witkowski, who had hit three three-pointers in the game.

“Dylan made a great play there. He got out with his left hand up, which is important, and used his length,” said Northwestern Lehigh head coach Jerry Lloyd, who was happy with the defensive play of his team that held Notre Dame to a season-low 57 points. The Crusaders came into the game averaging just under 77 points per game.

Witkowski’s heroics were set up by sophomore Cade Christopher, who hit a pair of free throws with 50.2 seconds left in the game, putting the Tigers up 58-57, for the 11th and final lead change of the game. Notre Dame (4-1, 9-2) called a timeout with 30 seconds left and was then forced to take another at the 5.5 second mark to reset its offense.

Nick Henry finished with a team-high 13 points, while Christopher finished with 12, going 4-for-4 from the foul line. While the points were nice, Lloyd noted the defensive contributions that Christopher makes for Northwestern.

“I put him right there as one of the best defensive players in the league, said Lloyd. “The kid has a motor that just doesn’t stop, and he is super athletic. He is so active with his hands and does all of the little things that aren’t in the box score. He’s always guarding the other team’s best player when we get into a junk defense.”

Notre Dame senior Logan Rickert led all scorers with 19 points and Boyle finished with 17 but was held to just two points in the final quarter of the game. Rickert and Boyle each hit two three-pointers in the first quarter, but Northwestern (7-2 Colonial League, 10-4 overall) held a 15-12 lead going into the second quarter. Rickert hit two more three-pointers in the second quarter before the Crusaders (4-1, 9-2) jumped on an opening inside and used Na’Kai Carew to drive the lane for six second quarter points and Notre Dame led 32-28 at the half.

The Tigers came out shooting in the second half, outscoring Notre Dame 21-11 and at one point opened their biggest lead of the game when Andres Garrido scored from inside to put the Tigers up 49-40 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

Notre Dame cut into the lead in the fourth quarter and regained the edge with 4:21 to play when Boyle hit an outside jumper to make it 54-53.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to win a Colonial League title,” said Christopher. “We have to keep our heads up the rest of the season and stay focused and we can get there. This was a big win for us and will really pump us up for the rest of the season.”

The two teams combined for 17 three-pointers, with seven in the first quarter and 12 in the first half. All 12 of the Crusaders first quarter points came on threes and Cayden Fitch returned fire with two first quarter shots from beyond the arc and Witkowski added a third for Northwestern. Rickert had a game-high five threes.

PRESS PHOTO BY RON GOWER Dylan Witkowski, seen here during a recent game against Palmerton, blocked a shot last week to seal Northwestern's win over Notre Dame.