Story first appeared in the Dec. 28, 2016 edition of The Northwestern Press and on thelehighvalleypress.com.
The blueprint for success for the Northwestern boys’ basketball program for this season is mixing youth and experience in the lineup.
The plan worked to perfection against Northern Lehigh last week.
The Tigers (3-2 overall, 2-2 Colonial League) battled the Bulldogs in the first half, but pulled away in the final two frames as they notched a 53-33 victory in New Tripoli last week in the latest battle of the Mountain Road Rivalry.
“We put a lot on Deven [Bollinger’s] and Luke [Hallman’s] shoulders as freshmen and we know they can handle it,” Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman said. “They do a lot for us. For them to come out in an atmosphere like this, for the first time ever, and do so well in the second half [is encouraging].
“They are only going to get better. The older guys love it too. They take them under their wings. It’s good to see.”
Bollinger and Luke Hallman logged 14 and 10 points, respectively. Senior Rob Seyfried led all scorers with 21 points in the winning effort.
In front of a packed gym at Northwestern Lehigh High School, the Tigers jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead in the opening quarter, but the Bulldogs called a timeout and finished the frame on an 11-3 scoring run, earning a one-point lead after the first eight minutes of play.
The back-and-forth second quarter featured 26 points scored combined, but it was Northwestern who led 24-23 heading into the locker room, where Hallman was waiting to talk to his team.
“We came out to a fast start, but I think it caught up to us,” Billy Hallman said. “We just needed to settle down. I couldn’t wait to get to halftime to get them calm. We were so charged up after making a couple of shots.”
The Tigers settled in nicely in the second half as they started on a 12-4 scoring run over the first five minutes, taking control of the game, which they never relinquished. The closest the Bulldogs got the rest of the way was six points.
Northern Lehigh was led by senior Joe Egan, who led its offense with 14 points, however, he was hampered by foul trouble as he played with four fouls for most of the second half.
Northwestern enjoyed the weekend off for the Christmas holiday, then battled Hamburg on Tuesday in a rescheduled nonleague game. The team then does not return to competition until Jan. 3 when it visits Wilson at 7 p.m. It then hosts Palmerton on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.
“We are going to get a little rest,” Billy Hallman said of his team’s holiday schedule following the Hamburg game. “We are going to get healthy. We have had some colds going around. Once January comes, the schedule is brutal. We have three games per week every week. We won’t have a lot of time in the gym so we are going to do some slower, situational stuff, to get healthy over the holidays.”