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Nelson, Fitch shoot Tigers past Tribe

The Tigers are getting a bit of a swagger. After three losses to open the season, things have turned around for the Northwestern Lehigh boys basketball team in an impressive way.

Wins over Lehighton (1-1 Schuylkill, 3-3 overall) and Salisbury (1-1 Colonial, 1-3 overall) have Northwestern inching closer to evening up their record on the season.

It was a parade of three-pointers against Lehighton as Northwestern drained nine shots from beyond the arc in beating the Indians 60-30 in a nonconference win. Gavin Nelson got things started by hitting a three-pointer and on the next trip down for the Tigers nailed another before Cayden Fitch hit his first of the game on the next trip.

Up 9-5, Northwestern went on a 9-0 run that saw Lehighton use up two timeouts, attempting to set things right. Fitch hit two of his three from beyond the arc in the second quarter and by halftime, Northwestern Lehigh was up 33-22.

“(Hitting threes) is a big weapon for us,” said Nelson. “It helps us spread the floor and helps our big men to drive the lane and get into the paint because the defense can’t collapse on them. We have guys who can hit three-pointers, so we have to take advantage of that.”

Nelson led all scorers with 17 points, while Fitch had a career-high 15 in the win.

Against Salisbury, the three-point shooting cooled off a little as the Tigers instead used a balanced scoring attack and strong foul shooting late in the game to drop Salisbury 38-36. Nelson finished with a team high of 10 points, followed by Ethan Kozlowski scoring nine, Mason Bollinger picking up eight and Fitch having seven against the Falcons.

Northwestern went to the foul line 11 times in the final quarter and hit nine of their free throws to give them the advantage in the game.

The ability to score by way of three-pointers is something that coach Cory Cesare sees as a definite weapon for his young team.

“We are young and don’t have a lot of size, but what we do have is a lot of guys on the roster who can hit three-pointers,” said Cesare. “Fitch is one of the best three-point shooters in the league, so we are going to try to get him those looks whenever we can. I also think that inserting Bollinger into the starting lineup tonight made us a little more athletic down low and he and Del Tyler finished for us.”

Bollinger, a freshman, has been off to a solid start to his varsity career. In five games, he is averaging 6.8 points per game, good enough for third on the team behind Fitch (10.6 PPG) and Nelson (10.4 PPG). Fitch has already connected on 11 three-pointers and is 12-of-13 from the free-throw line, while Nelson has seven threes and has shot 13-of-16 on freebies.

Leading up to the holiday break, the Tigers will host Northern Lehigh (0-2, 0-5) before road games at Pottsville (2-0 Schuylkill, 3-2) and Catasauqua (1-2, 1-3).

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Gavin Nelson scored a game-high 17 points in Northwestern's win over Lehighton.