Kratzer, Blue Bombers beat Tigers
It’s been a season of streaks for Northwestern Lehigh. After coming out of the gate with three straight losses, the Tigers won three straight and six of their next seven games.
Now though, the team has lost three of its last four after falling to Palmerton 63-51 Tuesday night at home.
Palmerton’s Kody Kratzer was the main reason for the loss as he had 14 points by halftime and then after being held scoreless in the third quarter, torched the Tigers for 13 fourth quarter points, including going seven-for-nine from the line.
Kratzer has been carrying the Bombers of late, averaging 29 points per game over the last three outings.
The game started evenly with both teams feeling their way through the first quarter and primarily staying with their outside shots. Both teams had two three-pointers in the opening minutes and the first quarter ended with Palmerton holding a slim 16-13 advantage.
Palmerton looked to drive the ball inside more when the game shifted to the second quarter and the plan turned out to be just the change they needed.
“We’ve got to keep the ball out of the lane and tonight, we didn’t,” said a frustrated Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman. “We struggled to rebound the basketball and they got a couple second chances and that hurts because we’re working hard defensively and then we just couldn’t finish the possession.”
Coming out of halftime with a 28-20 lead, Palmerton went back to working inside and picked up its defensive intensity. Northwestern struggled to hit shots and turned the ball over often, which only made matters worse.
Before the Tigers realized it, they had fallen behind by as many as 14 points and finished the third quarter with a 38-26 deficit.
Northwestern shut down Kratzer in the third quarter, so Palmerton came out going to Justin Hosier, who hit two three-pointers in the first two-minutes of the fourth quarter to open a 44-28 lead over the Tigers. After that, Kratzer found his way back into the scoring column and also started to draw fouls.
Hitting seven-of-nine foul shots over the final eight-minutes helped lead Kratzer to a 13-point quarter as Palmerton opened up their advantage.
“They made some shots, so you have to credit them,” said Hallman. “We thought we had a good defensive game plan, but they executed offensively and made it difficult for us.”
Northwestern continued to battle even when they trailed by as many as 18 points late in the final quarter.
Nick Henry had the hot hand and the Tigers continued to feed the ball to him as he scored 14 points in the quarter and finished the game with 20 points for Northwestern.
The Tigers were without senior Luke Hallman late in the game after Hallman fouled out with 2:46 to play. Meanwhile, Palmerton continued to battle, with Kratzer and Ryan King hitting six straight foul shots down the stretch.
Even with the team hitting a tough patch, coach Hallman is optimistic about being able to turn things around and make a run at reaching districts.
“The kids aren’t going to give up and we know that, so we’ve got to come to practice tomorrow and get ready for another game on Thursday,” said Hallman. “It’s just about focusing on the task at hand and winning games.”