Tigers top SV in season opener
Returning all of its starters from last year, as well as welcoming back forward Luke Hallman after missing half of last year with a torn ACL, the expectations are high for head coach Billy Hallman’s Tigers. He believes this is his deepest team yet.
In Northwestern’s season opening victory, that was evident early an often against Saucon Valley. The Tigers led 15-10 after the first quarter, grew that to double digits in the second and held on for a 64-52 victory on Tuesday night at Northwestern High School.
“Without a doubt,” Billy Hallman said. “This is our deepest or the most flexible team we’ve had. We can go a bunch of different lineups and not have to change what we want to do.”
“We’ve been playing together since we’ve been nine or 10 years old,” said junior Deven Bollinger, who led everyone with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds. “We had that chemistry built already, so it was just a matter of getting it back. I think tonight we got it back pretty quickly. It’s a good sign for the rest of the season.”
While many teams opened their season last weekend with nonleague opponents, Northwestern chose to schedule its out-of-conference meetings later in the season, which meant the Tigers would open the season with a league game. It didn’t seem to hurt their chemistry.
Bollinger scored seven of his game-high 17 points in the first half, and seven Tigers got in the scoring column to build up a 28-18 lead at the break.
And then Northwestern separated itself in the third period. Hallman set up Bollinger with a quick bucket to open the second half, then Hallman found Devin Thomas (11 points) for another bucket that increased the Tigers’ lead to 32-18. That lead would grow to as much as 14 points moments later.
“It’s just adding another shooter and another rebounder in the post,” Bollinger said about Hallman’s return to the court. “He’s a huge addition to our game, and it’s just good to have him back tonight on the floor.”
“We know each other, which is nice,” Billy Hallman said. “We have everybody back, so we were able to jump right into it this year. With this being our first game, we knew we would be rusty at some stuff. Like coming down at the end—we’ll work on that. But I’m confident with our free throw shooting.”
A couple of forced shots down the stretch allowed Saucon Valley to cut into Northwestern’s lead a bit and threaten the Tigers on their home court. Northwestern led by 14 points after senior Sam Yadush (12 points) sunk a mid-range jumper with just over four minutes to play.
But the Panthers cut the Tigers’ lead to single digits moments later. And a three-poiner from Brad Yeahl in the corner got Saucon Valley within 59-52 in the final moments. Yeahl and Sean Cyphers each scored 13 for the Panthers.
“We’re deeper because they are juniors now,” Billy Hallman said. “They played football and soccer, so they got a lot stronger. Just that extra year helps. We can go 10 or 11 deep. They want to win as a team. They are accepting their roles, and that is what we need.”