Tiger girls fall in district semifinal
The road to this year’s District 11 Class 4A girls basketball championship was a difficult one. the bracket included some of the top teams. The likes of Jim Thorpe, Central Catholic, North Schuylkill and Northwestern would be competitive in class of the district tournament.
Only one can win it all and this year, only one moves on to the state playoffs.
Northwestern’s run through the bracket ended in Monday’s semifinals when the top-seeded Tigers fell to No. 4 seed Jim Thorpe, 62-41, as the Olympians advanced to their third consecutive district championship game.
From the onset, Thorpe got after it defensively with both its full-court and half-court pressure. Five turnovers of its own kept it close through one (14-10), but in the second quarter the storyline of the night would start to develop.
The plot featured the Olympians creating turnovers, which led to excellent transition opportunities. The result was a 20-point frame, and a 12-point lead at the half.
A 13-0 run at the start of the second helped Thorpe gain its double-digit advantage, and at one point in the quarter it led by as many as 16 (29-13).
The Olympians forced eight turnovers in the second quarter, and 15 total in the first half as it held the Tigers to a paltry 7-for-20 effort from the field. Skyler Searfoss was the catalyst on the offensive and defensive side of the ball for Thorpe, collecting 15 points and four steals in the opening half.
“None of us were happy with the result in the Schuylkill League championship game,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Nadia Gauronsky. “We thought we could’ve played more effectively defensively and got out in transition more. So, coming into tonight, that was the goal.
“We didn’t hang back tonight, we attacked and ran through the passing lanes. As you can see by the result, I think that made all the difference in the world for us.”
The Olympians were once again dominant on the defensive end, forcing seven turnovers in the third, but they also got hot from the outside as well, which spelled danger for the Tigers, as the combination of both gave Thorpe a 22-point lead after three.
The Olympians, who didn’t hit a triple in the first half, hit three in the third. Leila Hurley knocked down two from the outside and scored nine in the frame to help Thorpe up its advantage and put the game out of reach.
“Going into the game, I knew the key for us was we were going to have to take care of the ball,” said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. “The team that took care of the ball and got out in transition was going to come away with the win, and that was the case.
“Jim Thorpe is so lethal in transition, so you can’t turn the ball over and give them those opportunities. Give them credit; they’re really good. They have girls that can make shots and they played well tonight.”
Searfoss scored a game-high 23 for Jim Thorpe, with Hurley adding 20. Ali Lister led Northwestern with 12 and Tess Ledeboer added 11.
The No. 4 seed Olympians will go on to face Allentown Central Catholic on Thursday at the PPL Center at noon. It’s the third consecutive District 11 championship appearance for Thorpe.
Thorpe forced 24 turnovers in the game. The Olympians’ pressure was key early as it helped them get out to a 12-point lead after two quarters, getting numerous shots in transition to help them shoot 12-for-21 from the field in the first half.
A week before taking on Pen Argyl last Friday, Northwestern captured its first Colonial League championship in seven years with a second-half outburst that sealed its win over Palmerton.
A week later, the top-seeded Tigers began with a dominant first quarter and stayed in the championship form most of the night as they rolled past eight-seeded Pen Argyl, 47-30, in the quarterfinal round of the District 11 Class 4A playoffs.
The Tigers (14-1) rattled their inexperienced opponents in the first quarter with a pressuring defense that led to a series of layups and open looks and a 12-0 advantage in the opening minutes and a commanding 19-4 cushion after one quarter. Ali Lister was the early spark with 11 of her 17 points in the opening stanza.
Even though they went nearly five minutes without a point in the second quarter, the Tigers moved to a 29-13 halftime lead. Lister finished the opening half with 13, and sophomore center Paige Sevrain added 10 of her 15 points as they combined to account for 23 of the Tigers’ 29 points after two quarters.
Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch anticipated that there might be some slow spots for his team.
“This was the first time we played in a week,” he said. “We knew we had to get some rust off.
“We were executing and moving the ball well, but we couldn’t get some shots to fall early. But we played good defense to help take control. Anytime you can hold a team to 30 points is a plus.”
Both teams started sluggish in the third quarter before the Tigers closed out the stanza with an 11-1 run in the final two minutes to take a commanding 42-18 hold. Northwestern pulled its starters with six minutes remaining and a 45-20 lead.
Lister also expected some static moments.
“We knew we would have some rust,” she said. “But we did come out strong and went right at them. We had a good rally in the second half.”
The senior believes her team can still hit its peak.
“Every time we got out there, we’re putting it together more,” she added. “We can definitely get better. At this point, it doesn’t matter who we play. We know we can work harder.”
Sevrain also sees her team reaching another level.
“We haven’t put four good quarters together yet,” she said. “We have been playing good defense. We’re getting better every game. Everyone is helping each other.”
Northwestern’s Caitlyn Miller drained three 3-pointers on the night.