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Teams clinch berths

There won’t be any nerve wracking stress for Bethlehem’s basketball coaches about clinching a district berth over the final two weeks of the regular season.

That’s because Liberty, Freedom and Bethlehem Catholic have all clinched district spots already with roughly four-to-five games left for each program.

It’s been a hallmark season for city basketball, as all three teams are posted in the top four of of their respective class of the District 11 power rankings and all three sit in the top eight of the East Penn Conference standings.

Liberty (11-5) was able to shake off a mini two-game slide to get back on track with two wins to close out last weekend, the first a 68-58 win over East Stroudsburg North followed by a 77-55 win over Quakertown to clinch a postseason berth.

“Achieving the opportunity to play in the postseason and extend our season was a goal of ours,” said Liberty head coach Nigel Long. “We are excited to have qualified, however, we have a ton of room for growth as a team.”

Losing to Freedom and Central Catholic before finishing off last week strong proved to be a valuable lesson for Long and his players, as they have a slate of games against Nazareth (6-9), Dieruff (4-13) and Muhlenberg (10-6) this week.

“Playing two of the best teams in the EPC provided a great litmus test for us,” he said. “We must continue to get better on both sides of the ball, while growing together as a team.”

Liberty came into the week holding onto the eighth seed of the EPC standings. Two wins this week against EPC foes would be critical for their hopes of qualifying for the league playoffs.

Freedom (11-5) and Bethlehem Catholic (12-4) also guaranteed their spots in the postseason.

The Pates have won five of their last six games, but dropped a home matchup to East Stroudsburg South (14-2) last week 54-48. Freedom and Becahi both squared off on Tuesday in a pivotal divisional showdown, as the Hawks (12-4) needed to win to have a shot at the division title.

Freedom finishes the week off against Nazareth, as they look to crack the top four in the conference standings.

Bethlehem Catholic has Easton (1-15) in their other league showdown this week, as the Hawks are right with Freedom in the conference standings. Below are the conference standings based on league games only. The top eight teams qualify for the EPC playoffs.

EPC Boys Standings

Parkland 10 3

Emmaus 9 1

Eastburg South 8 2

Bethlehem Cath. 8 3

Freedom 8 3

Central Catholic 8 3

Pocono Mt. West 8 3

Liberty 7 4

William Allen 6 5

Northampton 5 6

Eastburg North 5 6

Pleasant Valley 5 6

Whitehall 4 7

Nazareth 4 8

Dieruff 3 8

Pocono Mt. East 2 12

Stroudsburg 1 10

Easton 0 11

Press photo by Mark Kirlin Becahi's Alex Cercado goes up for a shot between two Spartan players during a recent game.