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NHS girls fall short of state berth

Although Northampton and Nazareth no longer share a division in the EPC, the rivalry between their girls basketball teams still burns brightly. Last Friday, they met in the District XI 6A consolation game to battle for third place and berth in the PIAA playoffs.

In game where the margin between the teams was no more than a single basket for the final 13 minutes of the contest, the Blue Eagles prevailed 38-35, ending the K-Kids’ season.

Nazareth jumped out to a 16-11 lead after the first quarter. Northampton claimed its first lead of the game with 2:12 left in the first half when Anne Beenders forced a steal and took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup that gave the Kids a 22-20 lead.

Then a bizarre sequence at the end the of the first half sent Northampton into the locker trailing 25-22. The Blue Eagles made a free throw to cut the Kids’ lead to 22-21 with 20 seconds left. With an opportunity to hold for the final shot, Northampton committed a pair of turnovers that Nazareth converted into buckets and the lead.

Coming out for the second half, the K-Kids appeared unfazed. They scored the first 7 points of the third quarter to reclaim the lead 29-25 after a Grace Lesko three at the 5:27 mark. However, Northampton would not score another basket from the floor for the next 11:26 of game time. Despite this, they were up 32-31 heading to the fourth quarter.

The Kids were able to survive their scoring drought because Nazareth was not exactly filling up the hoop either. Neither team scored for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the final period. The Blue Eagles were up 35-34 with 1:27 left in the game and made three free throws down the stretch to the Kids’ one. A desperation game-tying heave by Lesko at the buzzer clanged harmlessly off the rim.

Head coach Jeff Jacksits praised his team’s effort, “They came back strong. I was proud of them. They tried hard. Most teams would have just gone through the motions and got the game over with. We didn’t have the outcome we wanted for the year, but we made the district semifinals. We only had 2 girls with varsity starting experience at the beginning of the year.”

Lesko scored 20 in the game putting her career Northampton total at 1,407.

There had been speculation that Jacksits would retire from coaching after this season with the graduation of Lesko. However, he confided to The Press that he would return next year. There are no shortage of resignations among the EPC coaching ranks when they sense the talent pool at their school has dried up, but Jacksits has priorities other than simply accruing wins. He said, “Next year is going to be a whole different year. It’s going to be a teaching year. We know we’re going to take our lumps. The fun part is teaching them and then seeing them do it on the floor.”

Press photo by Linda Rothrock Nicole Yellen and the girls fell to Liberty in the District 11 semifinals