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Tigers top Bangor, reach CL semifinals

The Northwestern Lehigh boys basketball team has not had a lot of postseason opportunities recently. This season marks just the Tigers’ third trip to the league tournament since 2007, but they looked like playoff veterans as they downed Bangor 54-49 in the quarterfinals.

After an evenly played first quarter, Bangor led 17-16 after leading by as many as five points and trailing by as many as four when the Tigers went on a 9-0 run through the middle of the quarter.

Mason Bollinger had four points during the spurt and finished the quarter with nine.

“Mason really carried us early because Gavin (Nelson) was having trouble getting shots to fall and we needed someone to give us that push early on until we got Gavin going,” said Northwestern head coach Patrick Wanamaker.

The Tigers struggled to hit shots in the second quarter and picked up just five points – four of them from Bollinger - as the Slaters moved to a five-point halftime lead at 26-21.

Bangor’s Hunter McShane hit a three to open the second half to make it a 29-21 game and they stretched their advantage to 37-25, their largest lead of the game. Northwestern seemed undaunted as Eli Zimmerman hit a three-pointer and Nelson and Shane Marth picked up key baskets and made it a 41-35 game by the end of the quarter.

Nelson, the team’s scoring leader, found his shot early into the final quarter and hit a three-pointer and then came up with a three-point play when he was fouled going to the basket.

Nelson’s foul shot on the play tied the game at 43-43, but a jumper by Exavior Prado put Bangor back but Northwestern answered Bangor’s shots with one of their own. With the Slaters up 47-45, Nelson got tired of playing catch up and buried a three-pointer to give the Tigers the lead.

Marth then took over for Nelson and got a put back to make it 50-47. As Bangor looked to cut the lead, Marth came up with two clean blocks on defense and then added another basket on offense as the Tigers left their home court with a win.

“When we went to halftime, coach said that 12 of their points came off put-backs and rebounds and stuff like that,” said Marth. “When we came out in the second half, we definitely needed to emphasize that, and we did that pretty well.”

The win puts Northwestern into the semifinals where it will meet Notre Dame – Green Pond, who beat the Tigers in their lone meeting during the regular season. That 69-66 loss bothered the players, and they were hoping for a chance at redemption in the postseason.

“We definitely wanted to make it to play Notre Dame,” said Nelson. “We had a shoot around this morning and coach Wanamaker kept telling us how hard we have worked this season and that we need to keep playing hard and keep playing great defense and we just played our type of game tonight and got the win.”

Wanamaker, in his first season at the helm of the Tigers, prepared his team by telling them to enjoy the moment and feel good about what they have accomplished, but keep in mind that they would have to fight for every win the rest of the way.

“I’ve been preaching all week that this was not going to be the same Bangor team that we beat earlier in the season, and they were going to come in here fighting,” said Wanamaker. “I told our guys to embrace that fight and embrace the battle and kind of ride the momentum of their home crowd and that’s what they did.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Mason Bollinger tries to pass around a Bangor defender during the Colonial League playoffs.