Boys go on road trip for district playoffs
In one of those quirks of high school sports, the Northwestern boys team didn’t qualify for the Colonial League playoffs, but it did qualify for the District 11 Tournament.
The result is that the Tigers haven’t played since their final regular season game against Catasauqua on February 6. That means that they will have had 16 days off between that game and their district opener against Lower Moreland. That’s a lot of time away from competitive basketball.
Friday night they have to jump right back into not just competition, but stiff competition against a Lower Moreland team that finished 16-6 overall and 13-3 in District One’s Bicentennial Athletic League, tying Valley Forge Military Academy for first place in the Independence Division.
“They can shoot the ball,” said Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman. “They get up and down the court well. They’re just an all-around good basketball team. The only thing they don’t have is a lot of size.”
That’s a good thing and a bad thing for Northwestern. While the Tigers have 6-foot-4 sophomore Deven Bollinger, they could miss 6-1 sophomore Luke Hallman, who has been out with a torn ACL.
“He was our number-two ballhandler behind Deven, so this is one of those games where we’re going to miss him,” said the elder Hallman.
There’s potentially one other area where Northwestern can do some damage, if they play the type of game that Hallman has drilled into them during their break.
“They like to gamble on defense, so if we can hang onto the ball and not make mistakes, we can get some open looks,” said Hallman. “We have to be patient though, because that first or even the second look might not be the best one that we’re going to get. We have to find our shots and hit them. That’s the whole game plan going in.”
There’s no denying that the Lions are an intimidating team. Ranked sixth in the state, Lower Moreland knocked off the state’s number-two ranked team, division foe Valley Forge MA, a team that features no less than four 6-foot-8 players on its roster. Lower Moreland’s Shane Cohen scored a team-high 26 points in the 67-62 overtime win and is a force both offensively and defensively for the Lions.
Lower Moreland will have the added convenience of playing on its home court because of an agreement that allows District One teams seeded higher than teams they face in districts to have home court advantage. That agreement is apparently part of the agreement that brought District One teams into sub-regionals like Friday night’s game against Northwestern.
“That’s not a huge thing for us, because their court is a lot like ours, kind of compact,” said Hallman. “If it was a bigger place like Parkland or something, that can sort of throw you a bit. I think that during shoot around and warm-ups, we’ll be able to adjust to the lighting and everything and be OK. I know that the fans that will follow us down there will be loud, so we’ll have our supporters.”
In addition to Hallman, the Tigers have had various injuries that caused players to miss time late in the season. The break provided them with the opportunity to get healthy and have all their weapons available for Friday night’s game.
“We’ve got Devin Thomas healthy, so that’s going to be a plus,” said Hallman. “Other than Luke, we’re in good shape as far as that’s concerned.”
This is Northwestern’s first district playoff game in 10 years and Hallman believes that his players are ready to make the most of the experience.
“I’m not saying ‘we’re just happy to be here,’ because that’s not the case,” said Hallman. “We are happy to have made it this far, but we’re not conceding anything. We want to go as far as we can and we’ll have to see how this goes. We’ve accomplished a lot and we knew that coming in as a seventh seed, we’d have a tough draw and that’s what we’ve got.”