Tigers go 2-1 at A-Town Throwdown
Billy Hallman has high hopes for the 2018-19 varsity boys basketball season. He expects to have the most talented group of Tigers yet in his career as head coach at Northwestern.
The season is about five months away, but Hallman is got an early look at how special this group is during last weekend’s summer tournament.
Northwestern went 2-1 over the weekend at the A-Town Throwdown at Cedar Beach. The Tigers just missed out on an at-large bid for earning one of the final 16 spots in the single-elimination tournament that began on Sunday.
“We’re excited for November,” Hallman said. “We’re talented. The kids are buying in and working hard this summer.”
In pool play, Northwestern lost its opening game to Central Catholic on Friday night, but responded the following day. The Tigers first outlasted an athletic Eastern team on Saturday afternoon, and then edged Morris Hills on Saturday night to improve to 2-1.
Their point differential, however, wasn’t enough to earn one of the four at-large bids to compete with the 12 pool winners on Sunday for the championship.
Still, Hallman was pleased with how his team competed and considered this past weekend a successful trip to Allentown.
In the Tigers’ first game on Saturday, Northwestern withstood a charge from Eastern in the second half and held on for a 52-43 win behind a team-high 14 points from senior guard Sam Yadush.
“We knew they were athletic and going to try and get up on us,” Hallman said. “We knew if we would take care of the ball we would be all right. We played OK [Friday against Central Catholic], but we couldn’t make a shot. We had trouble scoring.”
Leading 31-23 at halftime, Eastern went on a 10-2 run in the second half to tie the game in a matter of minutes. Eastern’s defensive full court pressure forced the Tigers into a number of costly turnovers and easy baskets on the other end.
But once Northwestern settled down, it adapted to the pressure and handled it well. Back-to-back jumpers from Yadush late in the game increased the Tigers’ lead to 46-39. Eastern wouldn’t get within five points the rest of the way.
“I think they shocked us a little to start,” Hallman said of Eastern’s pressure. “And once we slowed down and got to our spots we were fine. I tell the guys to trust each other and you can all bring it up.
“We’ve been struggling with [slowing down] for two years now. We want to play so fast at the end of the game, and we struggle to recognize to pull it out and realize they are going to foul and we’ll get points at the foul line.”
The other two games were close contests as well, which will only bode well for the future. The Tigers were able to edge Morris Hills in overtime on Saturday night, but couldn’t get closer than four points against Central Catholic in the second half of Friday’s game.
“We were down six at halftime and cut it to four, and [Central] slowly kind of pulled away,” Hallman said. “We couldn’t make an offensive run.”
The Tigers were still without Luke Hallman, who is recovering from an injury suffered last winter season, as well as two other players that expect to see varsity time. The ones that were there, including senior Devin Thomas, senior Sam Seyfried, junior Deven Bollinger and junior Sean McCann, all saw valuable court experience.
Sankofa defeated Emmaus for the championship, 62-59.