Boys fall to NL, CL playoff hopes slip
With a team that didn’t lose any starters from last year, the Northwestern Tigers were picked to be one of the top teams in the Colonial League this season. Unfortunately, they’ve hit some bumps in the road that have them fighting for a spot in postseason play.
On Friday night, Northwestern traveled to Slatington to take on Northern Lehigh in a key game that carried a lot of playoff implications in both the Colonial League and District 11. Unfortunately for Northwestern, it was all Bulldogs in a 71-46 final.
With the Tigers holding a one-point advantage late in the first quarter, they got back-to-back threes from Sean McCann and Sam Yadush to go up by seven.
The Bulldogs’ Preston Kemery then drove the lane for a basket with just 15 seconds left in the first quarter to cut it back to a five-point game. Northern Lehigh’s Zach Moyer drove the lane to tie the game 16-16 with 4:29 left in the first half and 30-seconds later, Nick Seier hit a jumper to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the night, although it was short-lived. After Northwestern tied the game, Northern Lehigh went on an 8-2 run and led 27-21 at the half.
The turning point in the game was when Northern Lehigh coach Jeff Miller changed his defensive scheme to man-to-man in the third quarter and effectively shut down the Tigers’ scoring chances.
Northern Lehigh came out firing in the third quarter, while Northwestern struggled to find shots. Brandon Hess scored nine of his 19 points in the third quarter as Northern Lehigh opened up a 47-29 lead at the end of three quarters, which was their largest lead of the night to that point.
If the third quarter belonged to Hess, the fourth belonged to Kemery, who scored eight points from the floor and went 4-for-5 from the line. Kemery scored 21 points for Northern Lehigh, with Hess right behind with 19 points. Kemery was content to hit short jumpers and drive the lane for his points while Hess nailed a game-high three three-pointers.
“I thought that was a key, when we went to man-to-man,” said Miller. “I think that it wore them down in the third and fourth quarters and we were able to do some things offensively.”
Sam Yadush finished with 15 points for Northwestern and Devin Thomas hit for 13 on the night. The Tigers were especially hampered when Thomas fouled out with 5:36 left to play.
With the win, Northern Lehigh (12-7 overall, 8-6 Colonial) moved ahead of Northwestern in the Colonial League’s West Division and clinched a spot in the District 11 playoffs.
Northwestern (9-10, 7-7) also fell behind Palmerton (11-8, 8-6) in the division. With remaining games against Pen Argyl, Salisbury and Catasauqua, the Tigers would need to sweep their final three games and get some help to win the division. They also need to climb back over Northern Lehigh and Palmerton to qualify as a wild-card team in the Colonial League playoffs. Teams need to finish at or above a .500 winning percentage in either their league or overall play to qualify for districts.
Northwestern was without Luke Hallman, who was out with an apparent injury. Deven Bollinger and Sam Seyfried were also not available for coach Billy Hallman in the loss to Northern Lehigh.