Northwestern girls play in semi
While a championship in the summer would be nice, the main goal of the Northwestern coaching staff is improving its girls' basketball team throughout the offseason.
So, when the Tigers are paired up with Class AAAA schools from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference they don't mind it one bit. In fact, the Tigers prefer that challenge as they face schools of that stature regular season nonleague games.
During last week's SportsFest A-Town Throwdown Tournament at Allentown's Cedar Beach Park, the Tigers experienced plenty of that competition firsthand.
Northwestern, which played three EPC teams in the tournament, went 3-3 and advanced to the semifinals on Sunday before falling short against eventual champion Parkland.
"We play all [Class] AAAA schools anyway as independents," said coach Craig Mogel, who was running the summer team in place of head coach Chris Deutsch. "We think the harder teams we play in the summer, it's better for us. We don't want to play teams that we play normally. We want to play teams that beat us up a little bit.
"I know it's great to win a tournament here. Everyone wants to win a tournament here. But my point is I look to get better in the summer."
The Tigers weren't even supposed to make the field of 16 on Sunday. But since Fleetwood wasn't able to make the final day of play after advancing out of their pool, Northwestern took advantage of that opportunity.
After going 1-2 in pool play with losses to Scranton Prep and Freedom, the Tigers rebounded with victories over Emmaus and Becahi on Sunday morning to advance as one of the final four squads.
Parkland then halted Northwestern in the semifinals, 50-19.
"It was really nice of them to come back and beat Emmaus, and turn around and beat Becahi there," Mogel said. "That was really huge for us right now. The girls are getting more confidence in themselves right now. They are learning to play together.
The victory against the Hawks stood out for Mogel over the team's six games. That's a squad that generally gives the Tigers trouble once the District 11 Class AAA tournament begins.
"That Becahi game was really big for us," Mogel said. "The Becahi game really gave them a lot of confidence. That was really huge for us because they're in the [Class] AAA bracket, and we'll probably have to compete against them at districts at some time."
The Tigers' productive run in SportsFest came a week after Northwestern went 1-2 in the Stellar Construction Tournament. Each week is providing yet another opportunity for this young squad to improve and gain confidence playing with one another.
"We went 21-1 in JV last year, and we really had a very successful AAU season," Mogel said. "But it's a different game. It's a faster game, and it's a stronger game. Just because you did great at the JV level, you have to take that next step up for the varsity level. These girls are still learning it.
"We are going to be young. At one point we had four sophomores on the court with one senior. The kids have to get more playing time and more confidence in themselves."
Seniors Erika Thomas and Mikaela Koenig have been instrumental in guiding those underclassmen throughout the offseason.
"I think Erika Thomas did real good," Mogel said. "She took the leadership role with the younger girls. When they are down, she really talked to them and brings them up on herself. I also think Mikaela, too, did a nice job bringing the girls up."