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Girls face NL for the third time this season

The Northwestern Lehigh girls basketball team went 3-3 over its final six games with four of those games coming against teams that qualified for the league playoffs, including the two top seeds in Palmerton (17-0, 21-1) and Notre Dame – Green Pond (16-2, 18-4).

The Tigers (12-5, 17-5) may see some of those teams again in the Colonial League playoffs that begin on Saturday.

The team wrapped up the regular season schedule with a 50-42 win over Catasauqua (10-7, 14-8), who will be the sixth-seeded team in the tournament.

The win gave Northwestern the fourth seed and a first round home game in Saturday’s first round.

In the win over the Rough Riders, Cara Thomas came out with a hot hand and hit four quick baskets, but Catty hung with the Tigers and trailed by just two points at the end of the first quarter.

Northwestern’s defense helped to open a 30-19 lead at halftime, holding down the Catasauqua offense while Northwestern shooters continued to hit their shots.

As Catasauqua began to focus on Thomas, the Tigers simply went to other weapons as Emma Freeman hit four three-pointers to finish with 12 points and Brook Balliet finished with 10 points and Thomas was able to put up 13 in the game.

The win was a bounce-back win after Northwestern fell to Northern Lehigh 65-47 last Friday.

The Tigers and Bulldogs will be first-round opponents Saturday at 4 p.m. in the league playoffs. Thomas scored a team-high 16 points in the loss with Freeman and Hannah Gober both scoring nine for the Tigers.

The teams split their two games this season with Northwestern beating the Bulldogs 48-47 back in mid-December. In that game, Aubrey Pollard scored 15 points and Ketelyn Barthold finished the game with 13.

In the most recent matchup, four Northern Lehigh players scored in double-digits as Pollard chalked up 21 points, Barthold had 16, Teegan Simms had 13, and Dakota Barthold finished with 11 points.

The season was somewhat divided in two for Northern Lehigh this season as they opened the season with a 1-5 mark and were 3-6 when they went on a nine-game winning streak before going 2-2 over their final four games to finish at 14-8 overall and 11-6 in the Colonial League to gain the fifth seed. Their two final losses were to Pen Argyl and Palmerton, both among the better teams in the league this season.

Northwestern Lehigh will need to find a way to give Thomas some offensive help. Freeman has become one of the better outside shooters and pairs well with Balliet, who can hit three-pointers and drive the baseline. The Tigers are a good perimeter shooting team and Northern Lehigh will have to limit their chances from outside the arc, while also locking up the paint to keep Thomas from driving the lane.

For Northwestern, the task is to limit turnovers and be aggressive on the boards. Turnovers have been an issue down the stretch for the Tigers and some teams have been able to get multiple scoring opportunities and limit the chances for Northwestern by out-rebounding them.

The Tigers play best when they come out of the gate hot and are able to take an early lead in games. While they were able to cut down a big lead against Notre Dame during the regular season, they are not a team that looks comfortable playing catch-up.

The prize for winning Saturday’s quarterfinal is a matchup against top seeded Palmerton in Tuesday’s semifinals. League title games are slated for Friday, Feb. 16.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Cara Thomas scored 13 points in Tuesday's season finale win over Catasauqua.