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Falcons knock off Northwestern

One of the top defensive teams in the Colonial League met up with one of the league’s most potent offense last Tuesday night at Salisbury High School.

The defense won out as Salisbury beat Northwestern 45-29 to hand the Tigers their first league loss of the season.

It was the third time this season the Falcons have held a team to 30 points or less. Northwestern was averaging 48.6 points per game coming into the game.

“If you can hold people to 29 points, and we’ve held teams in the 20s a few games, you have a great shot to win if you can do that,” said Salisbury head coach Jason Weaver. “We weren’t pretty on offense. We played the first half without any guards out there and did enough and scrapped and had a four-point lead at halftime. Second half we played with patience, worked to get good shots and kept up the defense. I’m really proud of the effort.”

The game was tight early on, with five lead changes in the first half and neither team holding more than a three-point advantage until the Falcons’ Hunter Bleam scored with 15 seconds left in the first half to give his team a 16-12 lead.

The Falcons clamped down on defense in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers and building the lead to 28-16 with just over a minute left in the third quarter.

Salisbury’s starting point guard Chase Fenstermaker, who didn’t play in the first half, came in to start the second half and provided a spark for his team. He chipped in with 11 points despite the limited shift.

The Tigers played almost all of the third quarter without Dylan Witkowski, who had three-first half fouls and picked up his fourth in the third quarter. The Tigers’ leading scorer came into the game averaging 14.78 points per game but the Falcons held him to seven points.

“They run a lot of their sets through him,” said Weaver. “He had three [fouls] in the first half. We frustrated him hopefully. He really makes them go offensively. Tyson Utesch did a great job on him defensively and worked his butt off. It was a team effort as well. Guys were fighting through screens, helping and talking.”

Weaver also credited the defensive effort of Josiah Day on the Tigers’ point guards. Day, who missed a few games due to illness, was back in the Falcons’ starting line up last week.

“That’s a guy, you’re not going to see him score many points, but he does the little things to help us win,” Weaver said.

The Falcons got a big game from senior Hunter Bleam, who scored a game-high and career-high 16 points and collected 13 rebounds.

“Hunter is an amazing athlete,” said Weaver. “He was tough inside and did a great job rebounding. We told him don’t fade away, just go up and go through guys. Early on we thought he was fading a bit. He was finishing strong.”

Tuesday’s game started a stretch of 14 games in 24 for Northwestern, which isn’t schedule to have two days off until the last weekend in January.

Bleam was also a big part of the Falcon defense under the basket.

“I consider our team a more defense-oriented team,” said Bleam. “Being able to hold a team like that to 29 points, it was a big win for us.

“I think they’re more used to a faster pace. They’re not used to teams that play so hard on defense. We really slowed the tempo of the game down a lot.”

Salisbury was holding opponents to an average of 36 points per game through the win over Northwestern. They Falcons have held three teams (Moravian Academy, Catasauqua and Northwestern) under 30 and have held Bangor and Souther Lehigh (a loss) to 35 or less.

Salisbury went on to drop its next two games, falling to Palmerton 54-37 last Thursday and then dropping Monday’s game against Notre Dame (Green Pond) 79-60.

The Falcons (5-5 overall; 4-3 Colonial League) will have a chance to bounce back with games against Pen Argyl (Wednesday), Palisades (Friday) and Saucon Valley (Tuesday, Jan. 18) before a rematch with Northwestern on Thursday, Jan. 20.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Hunter Bleam scored a career-high 16 points while also pulling down 13 rebounds in last week's win over Northwestern.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Josiah Day's return to Salisbury's line up has been a big lift for the Falcons.