Boys win three straight games
It has been a season of turnarounds on the basketball court at Northwestern Lehigh. The girls team has won six straight after dropping its first two and the boys team dropped its first three games, but is now on a three-game winning streak to even its overall record at 3-3 and move to 2-3 in the Colonial League on the season.
The turnaround continued this week with Northwestern’s boys team downing Moravian Academy (3-3, 2-3) on Tuesday and Northern Lehigh (0-8, 0-5) by a 47-19 score Thursday night.
In Thursday night’s win, the Tigers defense held Northern Lehigh scoreless until almost the midway point of the second quarter. Sean McCann and Derek Hebelka led the Tigers with 10 points each in the win.
“We’re getting there,” said Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman. “Everybody has gotten their basketball legs now and the football guys are in basketball shape. Luke [Hallman] is back in shape. We play well as a team and nobody is looking for glory on this team.
“Deven [Bollinger] got everybody in here at halftime and told them to settle down. Once we started taking care of the ball, we knew we were going to get the shots we wanted.”
Hebelka has been a consistent presence for Northwestern Lehigh in his senior season. His toughness has come in handy around the basket, but he’s comfortable playing outside and driving to the basket as well. In the game against the Bulldogs, the Northwestern offense came out sluggish, but Hebelka, who isn’t the first scoring option for the Tigers, was able to hit some early baskets to carry the team.
“He does all of the little things that nobody else notices except for us on the team,” said Hallman. “The guys all love him and all of us on the coaching staff love him because he’s a dream to coach. He gets in there and puts his nose in there and tonight, he carried us offensively early when we needed something and he was the guy to do it for us.”
Being able to play multiple roles for Northwestern not only helps the team, but for Hebelka, it’s the favorite thing about what his role is with the team. If he had to choose, the battles down low are where he would spend most of his time on the court. On the football field, Hebelka spends all of his time in the midst of the battlefield, having helped to anchor the offensive line for the Tigers this past season as the team’s center.
“Playing football really helps me physically, because I was on the O-line, so playing physical like that is good and I enjoy playing that type of game,” said Hebelka.
That toughness showed Thursday night when Hebelka was poked in the eye while battling for a rebound. After attempting to stay on the court, he eventually gave up and exited for a break because of his eye.
“He didn’t want to come out, but he couldn’t see, so he had to,” said Hallman with a chuckle. “He told me 10 seconds later ‘coach, I’m ready to go.’ He’s a tough kid and we look to him for that.”
Hebelka downplayed the injury and the toughness it takes to play in his spot with the team even though his eye was still swollen and red.
“I just try to help my team anyway I can,” he said. “If they need me to go down low and get some rebounds and be physical, I will. At times, we play outside and drive-and-dish and I like that too. I’ll do whatever it takes.”