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Lady Tigers continue remarkable three-year run

Thanks to video games, fans can play matchups between their favorite teams of the past in almost any sport. For some, it settles the debate of which team was better. For others, the comparisons fall short because of changes in rules and situations.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if you could match up the past three Northwestern Lehigh teams that won Colonial League championships. And what about the 2006 team, the last – and only one - to win a District 11 championship.

“They were all different and had different expectations coming into the season,” said Tiger head coach Chris Deutsch, who is in his 20th season at the helm. “The situations were really different too, because that first season (2020-21) was during COVID, and we never knew what was going to happen from day-to-day.”

In that season, just one day before the Lady Tigers season was set to open, it was delayed. Two weeks later, the light changed to green but with conditions. All players – even those in the game – had to be masked, as did coaches and officials. No fans were allowed into gyms to watch the games and throughout the season, the schedule changed as one program, or another would be unable to play because of a COVID outbreak.

The finals came down to Northwestern Lehigh and Palmerton and not only did the Lady Tigers get the league championship, but Deutsch picked up his 300th career win as a coach.

Even though Northwestern won a league championship that year, the Tigers were underdogs coming into the 2021-22 season. The masks were gone, and fans were back as things started to look much more normal.

Helping to remove the underdog moniker were a junior and a freshman. Paige Sevrain, the youngest of three sisters who all played for Deutsch, averaged just under 15 points per game and opposing teams started to become aware of just how good she was. Meanwhile, freshman Cara Thomas averaged 11.3 points per game, giving Northwestern Lehigh two players for teams to worry about.

“A lot of teams underestimated us and weren’t really talking about us as a contender until they started to see how good we were,” said Sevrain. “We had some good players and we put in a lot of work in practice, and it all paid off.”

This season has been the opposite. Northwestern was definitely the favorite to win another league title when the season started, and the Tigers have proved that it was deserved. This year’s Lady Tigers have set team records in wins (25) and have set the longest winning streak in the program’s history at 24 and counting.

“We are definitely getting everybody’s best shot because they want to be the team that takes us down, but that just motivates us to play harder,” said senior Maci Fisher. “Knowing that each team is coming after us keeps us hungry and we are motivated to keep working harder.”

And what about that 2006 team. That year’s Tigers had two players – Dana Stellar and Caitlin Miller – reach the 1,000-point mark during the season and Ali Horn would join them the following season.

“That team and the run we made that year was special,” said Deutsch. “We couldn’t get past Trinity (in states), but that was a really good team.

“They’re different eras and it’s hard to compare them, but one thing that it speaks to is consistency. This is my 20th year and we have played for nine league championships in that time, so almost half the time, we are reaching the finals. I’m not taking the credit for that, it’s all the girls who come in and work hard and want to be a part of the success. We always have good players, and their attitudes are good and that’s the key to winning.”

This year’s team has one 1,000-point scorer in Sevrain and could have two if Thomas continues to put up the numbers that she has in her first two seasons during which she has a total of 542 points. The current squad is guaranteed two more games in districts and with a win in either one of those games, will advance to states, making them the first team since that 2006 group to make it that far.