“We lost it on the foul line.”
Those were the words of Northwestern head coach, Chris Deutsch, after his ladies lost Friday night in the Colonial League girls’ basketball championship game to two-time defending champions Southern Lehigh 62-57 at Freedom High School.
The dejected Deutsch was spot on with his comment and the statistics back him up. The Spartans of Southern Lehigh made 40 total trips to the foul line during the title match.
His next statement was fairly another accurate prediction. “I bet they scored half of their points from the foul line.”
He wasn’t completely correct, but he was pretty close. Southern Lehigh successfully converted 29 of their possible 40 foul shots. Their final score was 62. Just slightly under half of their total points were achieved at the candy stripe.
That many foul shots are the result of many infractions. The Tigers found themselves in terrible foul trouble as the intense game progressed. Three players fouled out by the conclusion of the contest. The first was senior Sara Jones with just less than four minutes left in the game.
After her fifth and final foul was called on her, she was bent over with her hands on her knees just stunned. Her face said it all. Eventually sophomore Sabrina Mertz and senior Kaleen Suter were exiled as well after committing their fifth fouls.
The first quarter sped by with back-and-forth scoring. Both squads looked evenly matched early on and the scoreboard reflected that observation as it was 17 all after the first eight minutes of play.
The game pace slowed down in the second as the both teams stepped up defensively. This period is when the Spartans began to discover the foul line, consistently. It was a very physical and emotional game that resulted in a lot of whistles being blown on both teams.
Northwestern called a timeout with 4:23 remaining in the first half as they were winning 24-23 after battling offensively to combat the Spartans foul shooting frenzy.
The leading Spartan in the swarming of the free throw line was junior Madelene McDonald who made 17 trips just herself and made 12 of them. She also led their overall scoring attack as well as she contributed 16 total points to Southern Lehigh’s cause.
At halftime, the #1 seeded Northwestern found themselves losing by eight points to the #2 seed Southern Lehigh.
To commence the second half, the Tigers stormed out to a 10-3 run in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Deutsch said he didn’t make any big adjustments, just spoke the truth to the girls, “We just told them we have 16 minutes and that is it. I think we played with a real sense of urgency in the second half.”
However that urgency coupled with the 16 points and 6 rebounds from Jones before she was forced to exit the game weren’t enough to keep up with the Spartans.
Junior Trista Cunningham, who was a huge force in the semi-final game against Notre Dame Green Pond, was blanketed well by junior Brianna Prince of Southern Lehigh all game. Cunningham was 3-3 from the floor and had two rebounds. That’s quite the opposite from her outpour of points and boards on Wednesday night.
Taking a four point lead in to the final quarter of play the Southern Lehigh Spartans didn’t ease up at all. Playing tenacious defense until the final buzzer thwarted any attempt of a comeback the Tigers were brewing up. However, the Tigers were within three points with just under one minute to go in the ball game and three-point specialist, freshman Erika Thomas, had a clean look at a shot from beyond the arc, but it didn’t drop unlike the hearts of everyone rooting for Northwestern in that gymnasium Friday night when sophomore Mady Campbell of Southern Lehigh corralled the rebound.
The defeated Tigers only lost two games so far this season; unfortunately that second one was in the league championship. However, the girls aren’t hanging their heads too much as they are already focusing on their first district playoff opponent, North Schuylkill as the Tigers possess the fourth seed in the tournament.
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