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Tigers start 2022 with 37-point win

The Northwestern girls basketball team ended 2021 with a disappointing 43-39 loss to Hamburg in a nonleague game, but it opened 2022 by bouncing back from that loss and beating league foe Salisbury 63-26.

The 37-point win equaled the Tigers largest margin of victory this season. Junior Paige Sevrain and freshman Cara Thomas led the scoring with 14 each and nine different Northwestern players picked up points in the game.

The Falcons (2-7 overall, 1-5 Colonial) have been decimated by injuries and illnesses this season, including a season-ending ankle injury to senior Krista Bonge. The injuries have been devastating to a young team that has just four seniors on its roster. Senior Quinn Wittman and sophomore Desiree Nales led Salisbury with eight points each against Northwestern.

Early turnovers had Salisbury scrambling from the start and Northwestern Lehigh (6-3, 5-1) went on a 10-0 run midway through the first quarter to open a 10-point lead and then stretched it to 14 by the end of the quarter. Another eight unanswered points in the second quarter, anchored by Brook Balliet’s three-pointer with 5:15 left gave the Tigers a 24-point lead at halftime.

“Yesterday was the first time since tryouts that we had our entire team able to practice,” said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. “I had 17 players to put through drills and run a full practice with. It was a really good practice and I think they just rolled that right into the game tonight.”

Junior Maci Fisher finished with a season-high eight points and six rebounds in the game and was a thorn in the side of the Falcons defensively.

“Maci is lengthy and long, and she is tough in our press,” said Deutsch. “Offensively, she did a nice job when she got the ball around the basket and made some nice shots. She is a good compliment to Paige (Sevrain) and gives us two girls with some nice size down low and they are both very athletic.”

Fisher, who has been battling a sore knee, was able to go full speed at practice and felt good coming into the game against Salisbury.

“I feel more and more comfortable on the floor, and I think that we are getting to know each other better because we have been healthier lately,” said Fisher. “We have a young team, and it was difficult because we had to get to feel comfortable with each other and with some of us missing practice time and game time, we weren’t able to do that.”

With Northwestern Lehigh up by 32 through three quarters and the game being played with a running clock, most of the starters were able to rest and hand over court time to younger players. Sophomore Sadie Fenstermaker led the Lady Tigers in fourth-quarter points with four and senior Maria Kirkopoulos picked up the slack defensively for the team.

Both Brook Balliet and Thomas are starters for the team as freshmen and Deutsch has been impressed with how they have responded to playing at the varsity level and the dedication they have shown.

“As a coach, sometimes you get spoiled by the success that they both have had and you take it for granted, but you have to realize they are both only freshmen,” said Deutsch. “Cara comes from a basketball family; her sister Erika was a thousand-point scorer, and her brother Devin was a great player on the boys team.

“The other day we shut down our practice because of illnesses and we wanted to keep everybody safe. At nine o’clock that night I got a text from Cara asking if she could come in at eight the next morning to get some shots. Nobody else was here, it was just her and she was working on shooting.”

Northwestern hosts Saucon Valley (2-4, 1-3) on Saturday and then begins a stretch of five games in six days, which will test both their health and endurance. The combined record of their five opponents in that stretch is 18-14 and includes 6-2 Wilson, which is 3-2 in the Colonial League.

PRESS PHOTO BY MIKE FEIFEL Maci Fisher scored eight points and pulled in six rebounds Tuesday against Salisbury. The junior forward was also a key to the Tigers' defensive effort in the 37-point win.