Tigers reach semis
The first two meetings were close endings coming down the stretch, with the home team coming away with the win in both regular season contests. The latest was a 51-46 win in overtime for Northwestern over Salisbury exactly a week ago.
The third meeting, one that would have more on the line than the previous two, had a different script to be played out. And it went in favor of Northwestern.
Just days after that overtime victory over Salisbury, Northwestern rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to down Salisbury in the Colonial League quarterfinals, 51-38, on Saturday night at the Lady Tigers’ home court.
“The last two games we were kind of sluggish coming into them,” said Erika Thomas said of the previous two meetings. “Tonight we were fully of energy. I could tell that we had a couple of good practices leading up to this.”
The first matchup between the two squads saw Salisbury take a 22-19 lead into halftime before escaping with a 38-36 win on January 2. In their second-to-last regular season game, Northwestern once again trailed going into halftime at 21-16 before rallying in the second half and overtime.
There was no question from the start who have control of the most recent meeting, and it was a different scene from the first two clashes.
Despite falling in that 5-0 hole, Northwestern rallied to score 11 of the final 13 points in the third quarter to regain the lead at 11-7 after eight minutes. That lead ballooned to 28-12 at halftime between a combined 18 points from Erika Thomas (11) and Leighanna Lister (7).
“Once we got the lead, we forced them to play some different defenses that they don’t typically play,” head coach Deutsch said. “I thought we got off to a real good start. I thought tonight, defensively we were really good.”
Salisbury, which got off to a solid start in the Colonial League portion of their schedule this season, committed 12 turnovers in the first half that allowed Northwestern to creep back into play despite the early deficit.
“We had 20 turnovers again,” Salisbury head coach Joe Mladosich said. “That’s all we practiced, limiting turnovers. Everything we worked on we didn’t do as a team today at all.
“They did all of the fundamental things right. They rebounded the ball; we didn’t rebound. They got second, third and fourth shots. It’s simple basic things that we need to do better. That’s on me because we’re not doing them any better.”
After that first-quarter rally for Northwestern, the snowball continued to grow for the Tigers. After doubling-up Salisbury on a Thomas three-pointer with 3:09 to play in the second quarter, the Lady Tigers’ lead grew to 36-18 early in the second half.
Salisbury trailed by at least 12 points for the entire second half.
“The atmosphere was amazing here tonight,” Thomas said. “I really think that helped us; we had a great crowd come out. We were really clicking tonight. We got out to an early lead and we were able to keep it, which is good for us.”
Salisbury’s leading scorer Lindsay Bauer was held to just 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
“She is a great player; there is no doubt about that,” Thomas said. “We knew if we could contain her, hopefully the other girls weren’t having a good enough night to beat us.”
With the win, Northwestern advances to play top-seeded Southern Lehigh in the Colonial League semifinals. That game was postponed from Tuesday to Wednesday because of snow. See next week’s Press for coverage.
“I know everybody is going to consider us a big underdog to win that game. That’s fine,” Deutsch said. “But the longer we stay in the game, more pressure goes on the team that’s favored to win.”
Northwestern was in a similar situation last season when it faced Southern Lehigh in the conference semifinals. The Tigers look to have a repeat performance and upset the Spartans once again after coming away with a 44-40 victory in 2015.
“We played them last year in the semifinals and we won last year,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can pull that kind of upset again.”
Thomas hit three three-pointers in the win against Salisbury, all of which came in the first half. She finished with a game-high 20 points.
While Deutsch got key contributions from his two leading scorers in Thomas (20) and Lister (13), the play coming off the bench was equally impressive. Abby Chisdak, Laura Pasquale and Isabel Dietrich all played valuable minutes for Deutsch when he needed to rest his starters.
“I thought the girls coming off the bench did a nice job,” Deutsch said. “When you get to this time of the year, you need contributions from your girls coming off the bench, too.”
H. Bruns 0-0-0-0, Donaldson 1-0-2-3, Burkhardt 0-0-0-0, Meikrantz 3-1-2-11, Bauer 5-0-2-11, Bucchin 1-1-2-3, Nicholas 3-0-0-6, K. Bruns 0-0-0-0, Utesch 2-0-0-4. TOTALS: 15-2-8-38
Lister 5-3-4-13, Chisdak 1-2-2-4, Sevrain 2-3-4-7, Pasquale 1-0-0-3, Koenig 2-0-0-4, Williamson 0-0-0-0, Deitrich 0-0-0-0, Thomas 5-7-10-20. TOTALS: 16-15-20-51.
Salisbury 7 5 11 15 – 38
N’western 11 17 12 11 – 51
Three-pointers: Salisbury – Meikrantz 2, Bauer 1, Donaldson 1; Northwestern – Thomas 3, Pasquale 1.