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Perimeter shooters give NWL added dimension

Chris Deutsch has been coaching a long time and has saved some of the old plays that his teams ran back in the early days of his coaching career. This year’s team has him searching the files because it has more skills than he thought that it might.

“They’re one of the better perimeter shooting teams that we have had,” said Deutsch. “I was hoping that we would find a couple girls that could shoot from outside, but it turns out that we have five or six who can shoot from the perimeter. I’ve been able to pull out some things that we haven’t run in years because we didn’t have as many perimeter players as we do now.”

That perimeter shooting was on display early against Freedom Monday night when Hannah Gober and Brook Balliet hit a couple of early three-pointers to give the Tigers an 8-2 lead en route to a 59-39 win. When Cara Thomas joined in by driving the lane for the Tigers, Freedom (3-6 EPC, 4-10 overall) was caught flat-footed, allowing Thomas to finish with a game-high 27 points.

“A lot of times,” said Deutsch, “teams come in and worry about our perimeter players, but they know that they also have to stop Cara and they just can’t do everything they want to do. The outside shooting opens things up for Cara and then we have Olivia [Reinhart] to go to down low, so we have a lot of options.”

Reinhart finished with six points and is becoming a presence down low for Northwestern, answering the question about who would play that role for the team this season.

“Going up against Paige [Sevrain] in practice last season really helped,” said Reinhart. “She was so good, and it was frustrating at times to play against her, but it has helped. I’m getting more confident, and we have a lot of good players on the team to help on both ends of the court, which makes it easier.”

As for the perimeter shooting, Northwestern (7-2 Colonial, 12-2 overall) deferred to Thomas in the win over Freedom and only hit four three-pointers in the game. The Tigers have had as many as 11 treys in a game and picking up seven or eight in a game is never out of the question.

Another key this season is the fundamentals that the team uses to win games. Against Freedom, the Tigers hit 11 of 16 foul shots.

“These girls work hard at every aspect of the game, and they want to do things the right way,” said Deutsch. “Whether it’s making a play on defense or being in the right position to make a shot, or foul shots, they want to do things the right way and that’s part of what makes them so good.”

Defensively, Thomas has become a thorn in the side of opponents as she has developed a way of stripping the ball and taking it down court for an easy two points. It’s a play she has continued to get better and better at.

“Cara is really good at that,” said Deutsch. “She is so quick and pokes the ball away and then has the ability to control the ball and get down court. That’s something that I don’t think she always gets enough credit for is her defense.”

In the last week, Northwestern also picked up wins over Wilson (2-9, 3-10) and Palisades (3-6, 3-7). The Tigers downed the Warriors 51-19 and beat the Lady Pirates 58-19.

The upcoming schedule has a home game against Bangor (6-3, 9-4), which has twice been postponed by weather, followed by a trip to Moravian Academy (4-7, 4-8) and home games against Notre Dame Green Pond (10-0, 12-2) and Palmerton (9-0, 12-1), which is a tough schedule and provides an early look at potential playoff matchups.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Cara Thomas takes a jump shot during an early-season game.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Brook Balliet is one of several proficient outsider shooters on this year's Tiger girls basketball team.