Girls meet familiar foe in ACC
After battling back, but coming up just short of advancing past the quarterfinals in the Colonial League tournament, the Northwestern Lehigh girls basketball team is looking forward to returning to the court in districts.
Once again, the Tigers have drawn Central Catholic (12-9) in the quarterfinals, with the Lady Tigers (18-4) being a four-seed and the Vikettes the fifth-seed.
A district game against Central Catholic is becoming almost an annual event for Northwestern. The two teams have met in districts in four of the last six tournaments, twice in the quarterfinals and twice in the semis, with the Vikettes winning three of the four battles.
The tide turned last season when Northwestern downed Central Catholic 52-41 in the quarterfinals.
“We always seem to be playing them,” said coach Chris Deutsch of the Vikettes. “Last year we got a win against them and I believe we can beat them again this year. It’s just a matter of us making shots and having girls step up.”
Early in the loss to Moravian Academy in the league quarterfinals, first-team Colonial League all-star Sydney Sevrain went down with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Her status for Saturday’s game against the Vikettes is still unknown.
The upside is that Deutsch used every opportunity he had during the season to get playing time for all of his players and believes that he has the ability to give quality minutes to other players if Sevrain can’t go.
“Tess [Ledeboer] has certainly played well for us and our younger girls gained a lot of experience this season and have all gotten better,” said Deutsch. “Obviously, you’d want Syd to be out there, but one of the things that good teams do is have other players step up in key spots and we have girls to do that.
“I would never put a girl out there who isn’t ready to play, because there is no reason to risk doing any further damage or even permanent damage. If Syd is healed up enough, that’s great, but if she’s not, then I’m not going to put her out there.”
Central Catholic always seems to take things up a couple notches when playoff time hits. The Vikettes have advanced to the finals in six of the past eight seasons, falling to Bethlehem Catholic in each of those finals matchups.
Northwestern is no stranger to playing in districts, with appearances in eight straight District 11 tournaments. Last season, the Lady Tigers reached the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Bethlehem Catholic.
Deutsch made some phone calls after the season and was able to come up with video from 10 different Central Catholic games to scout from this season. With nearly half of the Vikes’ games to watch, Deutsch and his assistants gathered the popcorn and went on a binge-watching spree to come up with a game plan.
What they found is that the Vikettes are content to be methodical and patient, playing a lot of low-scoring games.
“They like to control the tempo of the game, so we have to look to speed up the tempo against them and try to disrupt them a little,” said Deutsch. “They remind me a lot of Notre Dame (Green Pond) in that they have a lot of patient shooters and they execute very well and play very well defensively.”
As for who to watch, Deutsch noticed two players that help to drive the Vikettes. Point guard Emily Vaughan and 5-10 senior center Maria Traglia.
“Vaughan is an excellent player and we have to keep an eye on her because she dictates the offense for them,” said Deutsch. “With Traglia down low, they have good size, so we’re going to have to battle with her and keep her away from the basket as much as possible.”
Even after watching all of the video he could get on the Vikettes and analyzing nearly everything that they do, Deutsch may have a better idea of how to attack Central Catholic, but believes it still comes down to the basics.
“We have to make shots,” said Deutsch. “We have to execute and have girls step up in key spots. You can scout and game plan all you want, but if we don’t execute, everything goes out and odds are we won’t win.”