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Girls head down stretch

Story first appeared in The Northampton Press and on thelehighvalleypress.com on Feb. 4, 2016.

Northampton head coach Jeff Jacksits admits that he has yet to see his squad piece together four complete quarters of basketball this season.

Last Thursday night the ladies didn’t have to.

Northampton jumped out to a quick, comfortable lead in the first half as the Konkrete Kids cruised to a 50-34 victory on Senior Night against Emmaus in an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls’ basketball game in Pete Schneider Gymnasium at Northampton.

“I think the first time we played them it was tied at halftime,” Northampton head coach Jeff Jacksits said. “We reminded them about that. Their big girl can be tough sometimes and we didn’t want to slack off on her in the middle.”

The first frame was all Northampton (14-4 overall, 10-3 EPC) as the Konkrete Kids set the tone early, jumping out to a 12-0 lead.

Emmaus went scoreless until the 4:18 mark of the second quarter when Jenna Lessel connected on a foul shot. The Green Hornets first field goal came a few minutes later by way of Ciara Wippel.

Emmaus was 0-15 from the field before that Wippel basket.

“I think it helped that they didn’t shoot very well to start the game,” Jacksits said. “We shot OK. We picked it up a little bit and I think our passing got a little better as the game went on.”

Northampton’s ball movement may have improved, but it was the Green Hornets who finished the first half on a positive note as the ladies went on a 11-0 scoring run before going to the locker room. The Konkrete Kids committed four turnovers during that span, but still lead 22-13 at the break.

Emmaus carried that offensive attack into the second half, but Northampton countered with firepower of their own. The Green Hornets got as close as eight points in the second half, but the K-Kids went on a 9-2 scoring run to start the final frame that shut the door on any Emmaus comeback.

Aja Blount led all scorers in the game with 23 points to go along with her 11 rebounds. The junior is a luxury for the program, according to Jacksits.

“Sometimes I think the staff and I take for granted what we are going to get from Aja every night,” he said. “It usually is double-digit scoring and rebounding. This year she has been really going after rebounds hard. If she wants the ball, I don’t think there is anyone in the league that competes with her. She has been a force.”

Blount may put up the big numbers, but, according to Jacksits, it is the play at the top of the key that is the difference maker this season for the ladies.

“It helps that we have some ball handling this year,” he said. “Last year we were hurting for a point guard. Lauren Sterner was playing point guard and she is more of a two-three. This year with Victoria [Keenan], she is still learning some things as a freshman, but she can handle the ball. So we don’t have to worry about pressure.”

Keenan also can score as she contributed 11 points.

Seniors Sophia Eckroth, Julia Serensits and Sterner were honored before the game.

The girls dropped more recent games to Nazareth and Whitehall, which also recently handed Parkland its first loss of the year.

The Konkrete Kids wrapped up their league schedule on Wednesday night against Central, after deadline for this issue of The Press.

The postseason will follow with the EPC tournament this Friday. The semis will take place Wednesday, Feb. 10 Wednesdayfinals on Friday, Feb. 12. The girls are scheduled to play Minerville Saturday, Feb. 6, at 2:30 p.m.

“I think it is going to be interesting once we get to the playoffs,” Jacksits said. “Hopefully it sparks some of the younger players and it kicks in that this is big time now. We are moving on to the next level and they need to up their game a little bit.”

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