Article By: CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press
One of the perplexing things for Northwestern girls basketball head coach Chris Deutsch has been the fact that his team will sometimes come out and start slowly in a game. The Tigers might have done that Friday night against Northern Lehigh if not for sophomore center Emily Sekerak, who rattled off the team’s first 10 points of the game and helped lead Northwestern to a 45-38 win over the visiting Bulldogs.
“We’ve come out slow in a few games, and I don’t know why that is, but tonight, Emily really picked us up,” said Deutsch. “Really good teams will take advantage of the situation when you get off to a slow start, so we have to work on that.
“The truth is that we didn’t play our best tonight, but we still found a way to win and that’s what good teams do. Part of it was that Northern Lehigh played really well tonight too, and they forced a lot of the mistakes that we made.”
Northern Lehigh (2-5 overall, 1-4 Colonial) was led by Jada Saeger, who topped all scorers with 25 points on the night and hit three shots from beyond the arc for Northern Lehigh.
Saeger had the bulldogs hanging with Northwestern through most of the game until Lauren Hoffman fouled out with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. In those final 43 ticks, Northwestern took a one-point deficit and turned it into a 33-30 lead after three quarters, thanks in part to the absence of Hoffman, who had pulled down 10 rebounds in the game prior to fouling out.
Northern Lehigh coach Ken Shankweiler was noticeably upset with the refereeing throughout the game. He reached his boiling point when Hoffman was called for her fourth foul of the game and got into a heated discussion with one of the referees about the officiating. The discussion ended with Shankweiler being given a warning.
“We didn’t play our best tonight, but we just kept battling and looking to get points where we could,” said Sekerak. “We play as a team and everybody stepped up tonight. That includes the girls coming off the bench, because it’s not just a couple players carrying the team, or even the starters. The girls off the bench have really stepped up and that’s been a big part of the success.”
Northern Lehigh made a late charge when Saeger hit a long three-pointer with 4:29 left in the game to cut it to 37-36 Northwestern. The Tigers then scored the next eight points to make it 45-36. Saeger would hit a jumper at the buzzer to make it a 45-38 final.
Deutsch wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his team early in the season because they had a number of holes to fill from graduation. Having lost a number of their top scorers, there were question marks about how quickly the young team could start the season.
“If you would have told me coming into the season that we would be 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the league, I would have been ecstatic,” said Deutsch. “Sometimes it takes a little while for young players to adjust to their new role and get going but these girls have really taken to what we’ve asked them to do and they are playing hard and have put themselves in a good position.”
The Tigers (8-1, 4-1) picked up another win Saturday when they traveled to Martz Hall and beat Pottsville on it’s home court, 44-39.
Northwestern returns after the Christmas break with a game at Hamburg on Friday and then travels to Bangor on Wednesday, Jan. 2 to open the 2019 portion of the schedule. The Tigers host Salisbury on Friday, Jan. 4.