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Tigers show signs of summer improvement Tigers show signs of summer improvement
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Parker Jones takes the ball to the basket during a summer league game at Parkland High School. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Parker Jones takes the ball to the basket during a summer league game at Parkland High School.

Tigers show signs of summer improvement

Thursday, July 9, 2015 by TODD KRESS tkress@tnonline.com in Sports

Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman would've liked a more impressive finish than the 2-9 record his team posted over the past two months in the Stellar Construction Summer Basketball League. But he also noted plenty of positives over the seven weeks of play.

Last week's season finale against Warren Hills was another example of that.

Despite falling behind 16-3 in the opening moments of the game, Northwestern used its fight and grit to claw back and take a 17-16 lead. And while the Tigers came up short against Warren Hills, 57-44 at Allentown's Cedar Beach, Hallman saw improvement until the final whistle.

"We had a long discussion after Tuesday's game [against Saucon Valley]," Hallman said. "I kind of challenged them a little, and I think they came out tonight with a little more pride. Even though they went down early, they didn't get discouraged. They kept playing and it showed.

"I was proud of them tonight. I don't really care what the score says. They showed us some stuff even with two minutes left being down 19, we didn't give up and we got some steals."

After Northwestern's sprint helped them retake the lead late in the first half, Warren Hills took a slight lead into halftime with a three-point advantage.

The Tigers kept to within striking distance early in the final 20 minutes, trailing just 30-25, but Warren Hills eventually pulled away. A 7-0 spurt, capped by a three-pointer from Anthony Veneziana (who scored a game-high 18 points) put Warren Hills ahead 39-25.

Northwestern, while it was not able to fight its way to within double digits, showed glimpses of the growth it has made throughout the summer.

"From the first summer league game to tonight, I think we made progress," Hallman said. "We still have work to do, but I was happy. We came down here and it was a good experience for the guys because we don't have a lot of experience."

Parker Jones and Brady Mengel each scored eight points for Northwestern.

With just two players seeing substantial varsity experience last year (Jones and Mengel), getting court time with this group has been Hallman's main objective in the summer. Not only did the summer league help in that area, but the upcoming Stellar "Catch A Rising Star" Basketball Showcase and SportsFest "A-Town Throwdown" will be another beneficial experience.

"Just getting them experience on the court against this level," Hallman said. "These guys haven't seen this level of basketball consistently. To have them playing twice a week is huge for us."

Northwestern opens play in the double-elimination Stellar Tournament against Twin Valley at SportsFest at 5 p.m. SportsFest will be held the following week at Cedar Beach.