Log In

Reset Password

Witkowski leads Tigers to OT win

Head coach Cory Cesare is in his first season at the helm of the Northwestern Lehigh boy basketball team. But he has seen enough of Dylan Witkowski to know that when a game is on the line, he is the one you want to rise to the occasion.

Witkowski was known for hitting big shots last season and continued that into his senior year by making three big plays down the stretch to lead Northwestern to a 52-50 win over Bangor in double overtime.

Northwestern had to battle back from a deficit of as many as seven points in the early part of the third quarter. The Tigers cut it to three with 4:31 left in the third only to have Josh Giaquinto hit a three-pointer to make it 26-20 in favor of Bangor.

From there, the Tigers scored seven unanswered points and when Josh Heilman hit two free throws with 2:07 on the clock, giving his team a 27-26 lead.

Carmine Diaz’s three-pointer put the Slaters up 36-31 and as the Tigers continued to cut the gap, Bangor would get a basket to keep them in front. Brayden Strohe hit a pair of foul shots to make it 40-37 in favor of Bangor with :27 left in regulation.

“Our team always had their heads high tonight,” said Cesare. “They could have gotten frustrated with some of the calls and with how Bangor kept coming at us, but they just kept their heads and played a complete game,”

Knowing it was time for some heroics, Witkowski raised up and drained a shot from beyond the arc with 15 seconds left to play, tying the game at 40-40.

Bangor called a timeout to set a play, but the Tiger defense held and sent the game into overtime, which did nothing to decide a winner, so with the game knotted at 46, the teams came back onto the court for another round.

Neither team was able to gain a lead larger than two points in the second overtime.

Giaquinto found his turn to be a hero and stole the ball off the dribble just past midcourt and then sprinted through the paint for an easy basket and a 50-49 lead for the Slaters. Cesare called a timeout and again, Witkowski saw another opportunity. The play went to him and, he put up a three-point attempt from directly in front of the basket and again hit nothing but net meaning that the search to find a hero returned to Bangor.

“I love the moment. I really embrace that,” said Witkowski. “I think about making the shot and what it’s going to feel like when it goes down.”

After a timeout and with :04.2 left in the second overtime, Giaquinto looked to again be the Slaters, but instead, Witkowski again played the role. The Slaters got the ball to Giaquinto as planned, but his shot was blocked by guess who? Dylan Witkowski. Time ran out and Northwestern had its most impressive win of the season.

“I have to say that I liked the block better than the baskets, but the three-pointer at the end of regulation was pretty good, too,” said Witkowski. “Defense wins games, and this was a huge win tonight. We didn’t like that we had two losses in three games last week and we wanted to bounce back starting with tonight.”

One difference between the first and second halves was that Bangor completely controlled the boards in the first half, especially on the offensive end, which gave them multiple shots each time down the floor. At halftime, Cesare urged Heilman to step up and regain control for the Tigers and he did just that. The rebounding advantage shifted to Northwestern Lehigh in the second half, helping push them to the win. Heilman finished with six points and 10 rebounds, including three offensive rebounds.

“When we went into the locker room, coach said ‘you have to get some rebounds,’” said Heilman. “I started playing harder and really bumping into them and letting them know I was there. They play a physical game and we had to give it back to them. This is a turning point in the season for us.”

“Ever since the Salisbury game,” said Cesare, “I challenged our guys to bring some toughness to the court and game by game, we’re starting to see that. We are becoming a tough and gritty team that can work through adversity and that’s what we are building toward.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Dylan Witkowski made big plays down the stretch to help Northwestern come out on top in double overtime against Bangor.