Story first appeared in the Dec. 30, 2015 edition of The Northwestern Press and on thelehighvalleypress.com later that day.
With some of Northwestern girls basketball’s top recent graduates in attendance, the Lady Tigers played a lot like their successful predecessors last Wednesday.
Northwestern earned a 52-35 victory against visiting Bangor in a Colonial League girls’ basketball game at Northwestern Lehigh High School just before the holiday break. Recent standout players Sabrina Mertz, Sarah Segan, Trista Cunningham and Sara Jones, who helped surge the Lady Tigers to the top of the Colonial League, were in New Tripoli watching the game live.
“It’s awesome having them back,” said senior Erika Thomas, who played alongside most of those former Tigers. “It’s such a great community here. Everyone comes back. Some of them are my best friends, so I’m happy to see them here and supporting us. I know some of the younger girls look up to them. It’s nice to see them still supporting the program.”
Those supporters saw a sluggish first quarter from both squads as the two combined for 13 points and 13 turnovers. The Lady Tigers (7-2 overall, 5-1 Colonial League) earned an early 4-0 lead, but two turnovers to end the quarter allowed the Slaters to rip off a 8-1 run to end the frame.
“We came out a little flat,” Thomas said, who led all scorers with 16 points in the contest. “But it is a weird day. Everyone is excited about the holidays. We tried to just tell everyone to stay focused. We came out a little flat, but once we realized this is a must-win game for us, we picked it back up and played the way I know we can play.”
That realization came midway through the second quarter when sophomore Abigail Chisdak zipped a quick pass to Thomas for a three-pointer to bring the Lady Tigers within two points at 18-16.
The Slaters (3-4, 3-3) countered with four straight points to extend their lead back to six, but Chisdak connected with Thomas again for another trey that kick-started an 11-2 scoring run for Northwestern in the final 2:10 of the first half. Bangor had no answer as the Slaters committed four turnovers in their final four possessions before the break.
“It gave our girls some confidence,” Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch said. “Some of them were flustered in the first quarter and we got out to a slow start. I thought our pressure defense forced a lot of turnovers and made [Bangor] play a little bit quicker than they really want to…we forced them to go up and down the court, which works to our strengths.”
Northwestern’s new-found confidence carried into the second half on both sides of the ball, dictating that up-tempo offense, as Bangor managed only 11 points the rest of the game.
Lady Slater Marissa Fernandez-Tierney led Bangor with 10 points on the night.
For Northwestern, sophomores Leighanna Lister and Gabrielle Sevrain chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
“Teams are going to do everything they can to shut Thomas down, but if we can get balanced scoring, that will be key for us, and I think we had that tonight,” Deutsch said. “We had three girls in double-digits and another one with nine. That’s good.”
With the girls getting a break from their studies for the holidays, Deutsch planned to do the same with basketball, giving the team a four day-break following the contest. After they reconvene, the longtime coach said they are going back to the basics in practice.
“When we come back, it is about fundamentals,” he said. “Dribbling, shooting, passing, rebounding, there are a lot of fundamental stuff that we will be working on. We will be working on our execution on the offensive end. With this group our practices are fundamentals and conditioning. It isn’t fun stuff, but those are the things we need to be able to do to play tough teams.”
The next contest for the Lady Tigers isn’t until the new year when they visit Salisbury on Jan. 2 at 1:30 p.m.