Boys’ comeback falls short
If we learned anything about the Northwestern Lehigh basketball team this season it was that you can’t give up on the Tigers even when things don’t seem to be going in their favor.
Northwestern almost pulled off another come from behind win against Bethlehem Catholic Friday night, but in the end, the Golden Hawks were able to hang on and stretch out their lead late in the game for a 56-39 win in the District 11 4A quarterfinals.
The Hawks came out firing and went up 6-0 before Northwestern Lehigh (13-11) was able to get on the board. By the end of the first quarter, the Tigers trailed 15-6. They came out in the second quarter showing off their strong defensive skills and used a 7-0 run to cut the Hawks lead down to four at 15-11 with 4:30 left in the first half.
Later in the quarter, Vinnie Castrine hit a three-pointer and Luke Hallman hit a turnaround jumper to cut the Hawks’ lead to 20-18. Beca was able to rattle off a couple late baskets from Alex Cercado to extend its lead to 24-18 at halftime.
“We’ve been known for our defense all season,” said Northwestern head coach Billy Hallman. “I thought we played especially well in the second quarter on both sides of the court and we really pulled ourselves right back into the game. It was unfortunate that they got those late baskets, but we were still in pretty good shape at that point.”
Just as the early part of the second quarter belonged to Northwestern, so did the start of the third quarter. Nick Henry drained a three-pointer with 6:09 left in the third to cut Beca’s lead to 26-23 and a minute later, it was cut to two when Deven Bollinger hit from down low. From there, Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Glassmacher and Matt Stianche combined for nine points over the next two minutes as the Hawks reeled off an impressive run of their own, combining hot shooting with a rejuvenated defense to drop in 11 unanswered points and put Northwestern down 39-26.
Glassmacher started the run with a three-pointer and it was capped off by Bryan Santana, who hit on a two-pointer with 2:01 left in the quarter.
“Their athleticism kind of wore us down a bit as the game went on and they started to play much better defense,” said Billy Hallman. “That run really hurt us and at that point it was tough to come back against a team like that.”
Northwestern never gave up and looked to fight back throughout the final eight minutes, but the Tigers couldn’t rattle off a long run to get close enough and Bethlehem Catholic (13-11) continued to pull away, finishing with the 56-39 win.
Bethlehem Catholic’s Julian Thomas led all scorers with 16 points in the game, while Northwestern was paced by Deven Bollinger, who had with 13 points. The Tigers finish the season with an 11-12 overall record. Bethlehem Catholic advances to the District 11 semifinals and are now 13-11 on the season overall.
The loss ended the season for Northwestern and put Bethlehem Catholic through to the Class 4A semifinals against Tamaqua, which downed Pine Grove 79-45 in the other quarterfinal game.
Billy Hallman was especially proud of his group of six seniors – including four senior starters – who were the first class that he had when he coached seventh grade basketball. He then had them through middle school and high school.
“It’s kind of special to have a group like that,” he said. “They really helped to turn the program around and they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
The group helped the team to districts in each of their final three seasons after Northwestern missed playing in districts for eight straight years.