Lady Tigers get back to semifinals
It wasn't quite the start Northwestern got against Saucon Valley in the Colonial League quarterfinals, but when the two teams met in the first round of districts, the Tigers got off to a quick start once again.
The result was particularly similar to the Tigers' dominant 21-point victory against the Panthers in the league tournament.
Number 5 seed Northwestern, which built a quick 13-4 lead and led by 10 at halftime, led by as much as 18 in the fourth quarter over No. 4 Saucon Valley.
The Panthers cut into the Tigers' lead a bit, but it wasn't enough as the Tigers downed the Panthers in Saturday's District 11 Class AAA first round matchup at Northampton High School's Pete Schneider Gymnasium, 50-39.
"I think that's really a key for us," Mertz said. "When we get off to a good start, usually that carries through the entire game. Last time we played them we got off to a 13-0 run, which was huge. This game, I think we still got off to a good start. We were just playing well."
The Tigers advanced to the district semifinals to face No. 1 seed Bethlehem Catholic, which was played Wednesday, after Press deadline.
"I really don't think we have anything to lose," Mertz said. "You can't ask for anything more than that. Were going to give it our best shot. I hope that it stays a close game, and I think we can really play with them."
Mertz, who finished with a game-high 17 points, scored nine for the Tigers in the opening period to help open a 16-9 advantage.
The senior point guard hit two 3-pointers in the frame, the second of which came with 1:27 remaining that gave the Tigers that 13-4 lead. Mertz was then fouled on a 3-pointer with under 30 seconds to play in the frame, and her three makes from the foul line halted a brief 4-0 Panther spurt.
"I think that's a good thing for us obviously when we get out to a good lead," Erika Thomas said. "Then we feel like we have the momentum. It's good to have that point cushion to know that even if they go on a little run, we still have a couple that we can pull ourselves back out of it and maintain the lead."
Mertz and the Tigers' momentum continued into the second quarter. This time Mertz, who added six more points in the second, found a number of seams in the Panthers' interior defense that helped open a 22-12 lead.
Saucon Valley scored the first field goal of the second half to cut Northwestern's deficit to 26-18, but the Tigers held at least a nine-point lead the rest of the way.
Sarah Segan, after scoring two points in the first half, scored 10 over the final 16 minutes to help the Tigers remain in control until the final whistle.
To go along with a combined 29 from Mertz and Segan (their two top scorers on the season) the Tigers got 10 from Thomas and seven from Megan Landrigan. That balanced attack is a recipe for Northwestern that makes them the most dangerous.
"That's when I think we're playing our best game," Mertz said. "When we have five people contribute and score, and people coming off the bench doing the same thing, that's when I think we're really a hard team to play."
The Panthers got 14 from O'Donnell and 10 from Spirk.
Mertz 6-3-3-17, Landrigan 3-0-0-7, Segan 6-0-2-12, Koenig 0-0-0-0, Williamson 0-0-0-0, Thomas 3-3-5-10, Lister 1-0-0-2, Anderson 1-0-1-2. TOTALS: 20-6-11-50.
Okken 4-0-3-8, Small 1-0-0-3, Omdahl 4-2-2-10, Spirk 1-1-2-4, O'Donnell 6-2-5-14. TOTALS: 16-5-12-39.
Northwestern 16 10 13 11 – 50
Saucon Valley 9 7 9 14 – 39
Three-pointers: NW – Mertz 2, Thomas 1, Landrigan 1; SV – Small 1, Spirk 1.