Girls team has new faces, same high expectations
Northwestern Lehigh girls basketball coach Chris Deutsch believes in playing tougher teams to provide more of a challenge for his players. That’s the case both in the regular season and in scrimmages as the team prepares for the season. Northwestern had two scrimmages, both against perennially strong East Penn Conference teams in Easton and Nazareth.
The Tigers open the season with two games against EPC teams, facing Whitehall and Emmaus in a span of less than 24 hours. Last season, Northwestern beat Whitehall to open the season before losing to another EPC team, Allen, in the second game of the season.
“You’ve got to play the better teams to gauge where you’re at and show your girls the type of competition that’s out there,” said Deutsch. “It’s the best way I know to get better and I think we learn a lot by playing really good teams from bigger schools.”
This year’s Northwestern team may have a lot of learning to do because graduation hit the roster hard, taking six players off of the team. The good news is that most of the young players jumped right onto the school’s AAU team last spring and then showed up for summer league play, giving them a head start on the 2018-2019 season.
The added playing time during the offseason and a back-to-basics approach has put Northwestern right on schedule to be ready for the season opener Friday night against Whitehall.
“What we’re doing is going back to a lot of basic, fundamental stuff,” said Deutsch. “It’s kind of exciting for me because last year we had a lot of seniors and now we’re going back to teaching more. Those girls were here for four years and knew the system and knew what they were doing. Now, it’s a little bit different. You’re going back to the beginning.”
Last year’s team finished 18-6 and went into districts as the number-two seed, but exited quickly with a loss to seventh-seeded Tamaqua. With the loss of four of the team’s top five scorers to graduation, Deutsch is left with just one senior and four juniors on this year’s team.
The lone senior, Sage Christopher, has taken on a leadership role with the team, as has junior Sydney Sevrain. The two players have had what Deutsch calls a “calming” effect on the team with their approach to leading and their demeanor on and off the court.
“They’ve both been a very good, positive influence on our players,” said Deutsch. “They’re not yelling and screaming. They’re pointing out the things that the younger girls are doing well and they’ve been a very calming influence on our players. The biggest thing is that a lot of the younger girls look up to those two and that makes our job much easier.”
Sevrain is the only holdover from last year’s team that was in the top five in scoring, averaging 8.2 points per game, good enough for third on the team. Her older sister, Gabrielle Sevrain, is now attending Dickinson College. While she misses having her older sister on the court with her, Sevrain is excited about what could happen with the team this season.
“We have a lot of talent and over the summer, we saw a little sample of what it’s going to be like this season,” said Sydney Sevrain. “We’re really excited coming into the year because those young players are fitting in well.”
Christopher is also excited about how the team has looked in the early going and is focused on doing what she can as a leader on and off the court for the younger players. With the season opener right around the corner, Christopher is ready to get things going.
“The younger girls are going to be really good,” said Christopher. “Watching them early in practice, you weren’t sure if they were picking up the whole varsity experience, but watching them in our scrimmage with Easton, they were really good. They’ve really worked to pick everything up.”
Sevrain isn’t the only player to have had an older sister from the team go off to college. Alexandra Lister is a sophomore, whose sister, Leighanna is now attending Georgian Court University. There’s yet another sister, who is working her way up the ranks and will likely see time on the varsity roster down the road. Another family connection is sophomore Alexa Bleam, who is the daughter of Tigers girls soccer coach Kelly Bleam.