Catty holds off improving Tigers
Northwestern's boys basketball team is off to its best start in three years.
The Tigers headed into this week at 4-7 overall and 2-4 in the Colonial League. The team has already eclipsed its win total from the last two seasons combined.
Second-year head coach Dan Eddinger is pleased to see his team's improvement, but he's not nearly satisfied with it.
"There's definitely progress," he said after last Thursday's loss to Catasauqua. "It's just not progressing as quickly as it could given the talent we have on this team
"I think we need to build momentum by winning a few games coming up here. That's going to start with senior leadership. Our seniors have to step up, take the bull by the horns and provide some leadership. And our young guys have to follow suit."
Tuesday's match up with Southern Lehigh ended a difficult stretch of the Tiger's schedule. Their last four league opponents (Southern Lehigh, Wilson, Catty and Bangor) sport a combined 19-5 league record. With defending league champ Salisbury coming to New Tripoli Friday night, things don't ease up much until the middle of the month.
So far this year Northwestern has won games against teams that are struggling or rebuilding, but has lost to most of the better teams on its schedule, usually by large margins.
That's been a trend for the past few years and one Eddinger hopes to break as soon as possible.
"Against teams we feel we can beat we play really well," he said. "Against teams we're not so sure we can beat we tend to get blown out. It's frustrating."
The Tigers had a shot to beat one of the league's top teams last Thursday as Catasauqua visited New Tripoli.
Catty jumped out to a big early lead. But the Rough Riders, which were playing the game without sixth man Paryss Marshall (son of former NBA player Donyell Marshall) and they lost their starting center (Jarrid Strong) to an injury in the third quarter.
The Tigers chopped the lead down to a manageable number, but couldn't get closer than eight points before falling to Catty, 63-49.
"They're missing Marshall and Strong goes out for a quarter and a half and we can't cut the lead," said Eddinger. "It's a little disheartening."
The Tigers cut what was once a 19-point Catasauqua lead down to less than 10 three times in the third quarter.
When Strong went down with a wrist injury, it seemed like the Tigers might have new life.
The Tigers had the lead down to eight points late in the third quarter. But Derrick Bond hit two clutch three-pointers in the final minute and a half to give his team a 41-31 lead after three quarters.
"We missed a lot of lay ups and free throws," said Northwestern head coach Dan Eddinger. "The bottom line is if we play a little bit better tonight and we take this game we're back to .500. We just didn't compete for 32 minutes."
The Roughies led 15-2 after a quarter and 18-2 early in the second. Strong, a senior, scored nine points in the first quarter. When Northwestern center Jarred Binder went to the bench with two fouls midway through the first period, the Roughies relied on dumping the ball inside to Strong.
"He wanted the ball tonight and he was making good strong moves with it," said Catasauqua head coach Eric Snyder.
Catty pushed its lead as high as 25-6 with two minutes left in the second half before the Tigers started to make a comeback.
A pair of Rich Perry baskets at the end of the second quarter cut the lead to 14 points. Perry (team-high 12 points) scored four more points as part of a 6-0 run that cut the Roughies' lead to 30-21 in the third quarter.
The Tigers, often out of position on defense, gave up six three-point play attempts to Catty in the game. They had chances to cut the lead further, but went 8-for-19 at the foul line in the game.
"We had a blown assignments on defense," said Eddinger. "You can't do that and expect to be in a game. You can't spot a team a 15-2 lead. It's very frustrating on a lot of levels."
Northwestern still needs to string a few wins together to reach its first district playoff tournament since the 2007-08 season.
"It's still there," said Eddinger. "It starts with practice. We know this is a tough stretch. It starts at practice. We need to practice harder and we need to play harder."