Deutsch reflects on D-11 title
When Chris Deutsch took over as the head coach of the girls basketball program at Northwestern Lehigh, he inherited a team that was pretty good and had reached districts in four straight seasons.
In each of his first two seasons, the team extended its streak of qualifying for districts, including losing in the finals in 2005.
The following season would give both Deutsch and the Northwestern program the memory of a lifetime.
To put it simply, Deutsch’s 2005-2006 team was loaded. It had three players – seniors Dana Stellar and Caitlin Miller and junior Allison Horn - who would all finish their high school careers with over 1,000 points.
The team plowed through the regular season and grabbed the Colonial League championship in heroic fashion, beating Pen Argyl in overtime.
The Lady Tigers overcame a 10-point deficit with just 2:30 left in regulation when Ashley Dymond drained a three-pointer in the final seconds to send the game to overtime, where Northwestern locked up the win.
Thanks to their status as league champions, the Lady Tigers went into the District 11 Class 2A playoffs as the top-seed, with Pine Grove, winners of 16 district championships including 12 in the last 20 seasons, entering as the number-two seed. The two teams worked their way through the brackets and wound up meeting for the district championship at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
“The girls team was pretty good and the school really got behind them,” said Deutsch. “We always had a huge student section and the girls would run onto the court through the student section and it was great.
“We would pack the gym at home and our fans really followed us on the road. Martz Hall always fills up for playoff games and I remember looking around and seeing a lot of Northwestern fans there and they were really loud.”
Pine Grove featured Lacey Belcher, who would finish her high school career with close to 2,000 points.
Northwestern’s Caitlin Miller was given the task of guarding Belcher and found herself in early foul trouble, so Deutsch sent in Megan Miller, a junior, to eat up some minutes.
Northwestern was boosted by a strong first half from Stellar, who scored 20 points before halftime. It also helped that Northwestern reached the foul line 39 times in the game, to hold a 10-point lead with just 4:00 left in regulation.
Belcher and the rest of the Pine Grove team continued to battle.
With 4.8 seconds left in regulation, Belcher was fouled on her way to the basket. She was awarded the basket and a foul shot, which she sank to put Pine Grove up by three.
Horn, who still sits atop the Northwestern list as the all-time leader in three-pointers, worked her magic and hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The teams battled through an overtime period with Northwestern able to hang on for a 57-55 win and the first District 11 championship in the history of the program.
“We really were the cardiac kids that season, especially with the overtime game to win the league and then winning districts in overtime,” said Deutsch. “It was really weird, because we were trailing in the league championship and had to come back to send it to overtime and then in districts, we gave up the lead late in the game. It was a special group of girls.”
After the team’s celebration ended, they remembered something that Deutsch had told them early in the season.
“I had told the team that if they won districts, they could dye my hair,” said Deutsch. “None of us thought of it at first, but when they reminded me, I remembered that I did tell them that. They wanted to dye it pink, but I was a teacher at Northampton back then and I knew that I couldn’t do that, so we negotiated, and it turned out to be a blondish-red color.”
As for the players on that team, Stellar would go on to Lehigh University on a cross-country scholarship and stood for many years as Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer, until Sarah Jones bumped her down to number-two. Stellar also gained notoriety when she was featured on the show ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ which cataloged her quest to find the perfect wedding dress and then filmed her marriage to Patrick Holmes, whom she met on her recruiting trip to Lehigh.
Caitlin Miller still ranks as Northwestern’s all-time leader in rebounds and played college basketball at De Sales, while Horn went on to play at Wilkes.
With Stellar and Miller graduating, pundits overlooked Northwestern to win the Colonial League title the following season, but they beat the odds. The Tigers not only won the 2006-07 league crown, but again went to the District 11 finals, this time in the 3A classification. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it back-to-back district titles, falling to Allentown Central Catholic 43-22.
The 2005-2006 District 11 championship remains the only district championship for the girls program at Northwestern Lehigh.