Tigers win Round 1
Last year Northwestern defeated Southern Lehigh in the regular season, but fell short in the league title game.
Tuesday night, the Lady Tigers completed the first step on their road to revenge against the Lady Spartans.
Northwestern (6-0 Colonial League, 10-0 overall) defeated Southern Lehigh 58-53 at Southern Lehigh High School in arguably the most anticipated Colonial League girls basketball match-up this season as the Lady Spartans (6-1, 8-4) led the South Division and the Lady Tigers control the North.
"This is definitely the best team we have faced so far," said Northwestern junior Sarah Segan.
From the tip it seemed that the Lady Spartans were the better team of the two, at least for the night, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and despite eight first half Southern Lehigh turnovers held the lead heading into the locker room, 26-17.
"I thought we were just pressing early," said head coach Chris Deutsch. "They were running a junk defense on [Erika] Thomas and [Sabrina] Mertz and did a good job of taking those two girls away."
That defensive effort by Southern Lehigh stymied Thomas and Mertz for the entire contest as they finished with 11 points and four points, respectively.
That allowed Segan (15 points) to lead all Lady Tigers in scoring and lead the way on a comeback.
A made free throw by senior Trista Cunningham (12 points, five rebounds) kicked off an 8-0 run for Northwestern that closed out the third quarter and got them to within one, 37-36, after trailing as many as 11, their largest deficit this season.
Northwestern trailed every second of the game until a three-pointer by sophomore Megan Landrigan (eight points, seven rebs.) with 5:23 left in the contest thrust the Lady Tigers into the lead, 42-41.
"At half time we told the other seven girls to step up," said Deutsch of the second-half turnaround. "We are challenging new girls to score. We told them to step up and this is their time. I thought we did step up. I thought we had good, balanced scoring."
Neither team led by more than five the rest of the way. The Lady Spartans' Madelene McDonald (19 points, nine rebounds), who surpassed 1,000 career points last week, helped keep it close before foulng out with 17 seconds left.
Four different Lady Tigers made foul shots with less than a minute remaining to preserve the lead. Sophomore Mikaela Koenig made two clutch foul shots in place of the injured Mertz with 3.3 seconds left to keep Northwestern at the top of the Colonial League.
"We came on their home court and beat a good team," said Deutsch. "But what it showed is that you are never out of a game. We have never been down 11 all year. To get a win like that gets a lot of confidence. It shows you to never quit and never get rattled. I believe that this team really works together and supports one another."
He did pump the brakes, however, realizing that it is just the 10th game this season.
"We can't get too high on this game because it is just a regular season game," said Deutsch. "You don't want to get too high or too low because there are still 12 games left and we want to get to the postseason and beyond, but it gives you confidence that you beat the other undefeated team in the Colonial League."
The Lady Tigers welcome Salisbury to New Tripoli on Thursday. They then travel to Jim Thorpe on Saturday afternoon and then visit Palisades on Tuesday. Northwestern needs only one more win to qualify for the district playoffs.
Which is all just another step on their way to revenge against Southern Lehigh.