Boys win three straight, clinch D-11 berth
Just as quickly as things turned sour for the Northwestern boys basketball team, they turned right around.
The Tigers have won three of their last four games heading into their regular season finale against Pen Argyl (3-18 overall, 2-15 Colonial). In late January, the season hit a low-point with a 71-46 loss to Northern Lehigh.
After that game, a Northwestern Lehigh player walked out of the locker room after their 71-46 loss to Northern Lehigh and said “you might want to wait, he’s not very happy.” He was talking about coach Billy Hallman, whose team had turned in one of their weaker performances of the season.
The Tigers (11-10, 9-7) playoff picture is becoming a little clearer than it was following the loss to the Bulldogs, and it holds both good news and bad news.
As far as the Colonial League playoffs, Northwestern will be on the outside looking in. Six teams qualify for the playoffs and their 9-7 league record won’t allow them to catch Wilson or Northern Lehigh, who both have 11 wins.
The good news is that the win over Catasauqua guarantees the Tigers will win at least 50 percent of both their overall games and league games to qualify them for the District 11 playoffs, which begin February 19.
Missing the league playoffs might not be the worst thing for Northwestern, since the team has responded well after having some time between games and the rest may do them good.
Last Friday, Northwestern downed Salisbury (8-14, 5-12) in a 49-36 game. The highlight of the night was senior Sam Yadush nailing his 1,000th point. The celebration was the exclamation point on what may have been one of the better all-around games that the Tigers played this season.
“We did well as a team,” said Hallman with the usual smile back on his face. “A couple looks didn’t go our way, but defensively, we challenged them this week and we were able to hold them tonight, so that was great to see.”
As for Yadush, his 1,000th point came at just the right time.
With 5:55 left in regulation, Yadush pulled up for a little jumper from around the foul line for his 18th point of the night that also gave Northwestern their biggest lead of the night to that point at 40-30.
After congratulations from his teammates and coaches, Yadush didn’t look for the game ball. Instead, he walked right past a coach handing him the game ball and headed up the bleachers to hug his mom, who took the ball for safe keeping when it was delivered to the two near the top of the home side seats. His dad, seated at the scorer’s table, was next in line for a hug and then it was back on the court to go back to work.
“It meant the world to me, especially doing it in front of my parents and my family and our home crowd,” said Yadush of reaching the milestone. “I couldn’t have done it without all of my teammates over the past four years.”
Youth players from around the Northwestern area served as counters to hold up signs after each of Yadush’s baskets showing how many more points he needed to reach 1,000. When he hit the magic number, their signs all read 1,000.
Following the game, the Northwestern players returned to the court and signed autographs for the kids in attendance.
On the court, Northwestern Lehigh and Salisbury nearly came to blows on a couple of occasions, but cooler heads and the officials prevailed and kept the peace.
The two teams were in an 11-11 stalemate after the first quarter, but Northwestern pulled out to a 25-19 halftime lead.
Halfway through the third quarter, the Falcons’ Quinn Warmkessel drove the lane and tied the game 28-28. The Tigers quickly regrouped and rebuilt their lead to six points by the end of the quarter.
Yadush buried a three-pointer that he followed up with his milestone basket to give the Tigers a 10-point lead. Salisbury again cut the lead to six, but a 9-0 run by Northwestern stretched the lead to as high as 15 points before it ended 49-36.
“We knew that they’re a physical team, so we told our big guys to be ready and they stood up to the test for us,” said Hallman. “I thought Conner Snyder especially did a nice job and it really frustrated them. Our guys did a nice job of standing up to it, but not retaliating.”
Yadush finished with a game-high 18 points, followed by Devin Thomas’ 12. Sean Snyder led Salisbury with 11 points.