Turnovers, missed shots lead to loss
Last Friday's Colonial League girls' championship against Notre Dame (Green Pond) wasn't the best time for Northwestern to have one of its more difficult shooting performances of the season.
But the No. 5 seeded Lady Tigers' shots weren't falling when they took the court in the season's biggest game to date at Freedom High School. That display of shooting and costly turnovers resulted in a 51-36 defeat to the top-seeded Crusaders.
Northwestern, who hit 10 of 33 field goals (30 percent) for the entire game, made just four shots over the final 16 minutes when Notre Dame a 12-point lead at halftime to as much as many as 19 early in the fourth.
"It's harder on me tonight than for them," head coach Chris Deutsch said. "I'm so disappointed for their sake. I've been fortunate to have been through this before. I just feel so bad for them."
The Tigers' free throw shooting wasn't much better, particularly down the stretch. Northwestern went to the charity stripe a total of 27 times, as did the Crusaders, but only made 15 of those attempts (56 percent). The Crusaders weren't much better at 17-of-27, but Notre Dame held a double-digit lead for the entire second half.
"When you're struggling to score, you got to be able to make some foul shots," Deutsch said. "I think we could have closed that gap a little bit more. We didn't do a good job from the foul line."
It wasn't just the poor shooting that doomed Northwestern; the Tigers suffered long droughts at the beginning of periods without a bucket, taking away any chance of sustaining some kind of momentum.
After the Crusaders erased an 8-8 tie in the first quarter to lead by six after one period, the Tigers were held scoreless for more than four minutes to begin the second.
In the third, the Tigers didn't record a field goal until there was 3:36 to play in the third on a McKenzi Divers basket. Sabrina Mertz's drive with under a minute left in the period was the Tigers' second, and last, field goal in that stretch.
"I thought we were really out of sync in the first half," Deutsch said. "They got off to a good start. They took things away from us offensively, and we didn't execute the way we are capable. But credit to them, they moved the ball really well."
Both teams struggled taking care of the basketball. A total of 10 giveaways in the first 16 minutes helped Notre Dame-Green Pond to a 27-15 lead going into halftime.
The second half didn't start much better, as the Tigers committed four turnovers in the opening 2:10. Northwestern, who finished with 17 giveaways, didn't attempt a field goal in the third until the 5:37 mark.
"They did a good job locking down on our girls," Deutsch said. "We knew this would be a tough game because they play very good defense."
Looking ahead at the upcoming District 11 Class AAA tournament, both the Tigers' shooting and ball security must improve if they hope to make another deep postseason run.
As the No. 5 seed in districts, Northwestern faces No. 4 Saucon Valley at Catasauqua High School on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"Now we'll find out what we're made of because we got knocked down," Deutsch said. "We got knocked down early this year and we were struggling. Now we have a week to recover, and I belive we'll come out next Saturday and put the pedal to the medal and play extremely well."