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NWL girls get revenge on NL in playoffs

Northwestern Lehigh girls basketball head coach Chris Deutsch thought his team lacked effort in a loss to Northern Lehigh late in the regular season. Instead of just talking, he used the video of the game as Exhibit A in making his case.

His players decided not to take the same approach when the two teams met in the quarterfinals of the Colonial League playoffs recently.

Northern Lehigh took an early lead, which teetered between two and eight points for much of the first three quarters. Then with 3:23 left in the third quarter, Northwestern Lehigh sophomore Emma Freeman showed no signs of pressure as she hit back-to-back three-pointers that sparked Northwestern Lehigh to a 51-45 overtime win.

With her team down 33-26, Freeman was fed the ball at almost the same spot on successive trips down the floor and nailed the shots to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to just one.

“She has a lot of poise out there and has the confidence to take big shots like that,” said Deutsch. “Those shots were big for us and really gave us the spark we needed to come back and win this game.”

The spark from Freeman gave Northwestern the edge they needed to take control of the game.

Aubrey Pollard drove the lane for Northern Lehigh to go up by three, but junior Cara Thomas hit a three-pointer to make it 35-35 with 1:14 left in the third quarter. Pollard was fouled at the other end and hit one of two shots for Northern Lehigh to give them a 36-35 edge at the end of the third quarter.

Brook Balliet had been shutout through the first three quarters, but nailed a pair of shots that first gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 37-36 and then stretched the lead to three. Olivia Reinhart, who dominated the boards for Northwestern most of the game, got a put back to make it 41-36 in favor of Northwestern Lehigh.

“We always look to get rebounds because it just pushes us, and we have worked on that a lot in practice,” said Reinhart. “We made it a point to box out Pollard to keep her off of the boards as much as possible and we did a good job on that tonight.”

Overall, Northwestern had 21 offensive rebounds that resulted in 14 points, many of which were a part of Reinhart’s 14-point performance. Gober had 16 rebounds, 12 of which were on the offensive end of the court.

A three-pointer from Dekota Barthold and a follow-up basket by Pollard tied the game with 1:53 left to play. Balliet hit on a pair of foul shots and Teegan Simms hit a jumper as the quarter ended with the teams tied at 43 with :34 left in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Reinhart again worked the boards and went up for a follow-up shot that made it 45-43 to start the overtime period and then Balliet gave Reinhart a perfect pass to make it 47-43.

Hoping that the Northwestern foul shooting would fail down the stretch, Northern Lehigh kept sending the Tigers to the line, but Cara Thomas ended her slump at the foul line by hitting three of four freebies to wrap up the win.

“I’ve really worked on that a lot because I’ve had a hard time shooting from the line recently, but I knew I had to get those and just focused on doing everything I could to help my team,” said Thomas.

Deutsch had praise for juniors Balliet and Thomas, who came up big when the team most needed it down the stretch.

“That’s what comes from being a three-year starter,” said Deutsch. “Brook struggled to get shots to fall early and didn’t hang her head and she was there when we needed her. Cara stuck around for about a half-an-hour after practice to work on her shooting and it paid off for her and helped us win the game.”

Thomas finished the game as the high scorer with 17 points.

The win set up another postseason matchup between the Tigers and Palmerton.

Northwestern has had the better of the postseason play the past few seasons but the Blue Bombers won both regular season meetings this season, giving them momentum going into the semifinal game at Whitehall High School.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Brook Balliet dribbles around a Northern Lehigh defender during the Tigers' league playoff win last week.