NORTHAMPTON As the clock wound down, Northern Lehigh's Dave Oertner ran his fingers through his hair and then placed them on his hips. Behind him, his team wept with their heads buried in their hands.
On the court, the Wilson Warriors ran out the final seconds of their stunning 41-24 upset win over the previously undefeated Bulldogs in the first round of the Colonial League playoffs at Catasauqua High School.
"Sooner or later it was going to happen, it just happened at the wrong time," Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner said. "Nothing went right from the start."
Those words don't begin to tell the tale. Anything that could go wrong did. Twelve first half turnovers, six missed lay-ups while only making three baskets in the first half.
But despite their misfortune, a pair of free-throws by Maggie LeVan gave Northern Lehigh an 9-8 edge with 4:31 left in the half.
That is where the game fell apart for the Bulldogs. Aimie Oertner grabbed a loose ball under the net after a misguided Warrior shot. Before she could turn and get the ball down court, she had her pocket picked.
Wilson's Kammeron Stocks poked the ball free, grabbed it, and banked in her shot. Oertner's foul allowed the three-point play to be completed and Wilson grabbed the lead for good.
A shift from man to zone defense confused the Lady Bulldogs. The frustration rose and the turnovers piled up. By the time Sondrine Glovas' final basket of the half rimmed through at the buzzer, the Warriors held a 19-9 halftime lead
"I did not expect us to struggle with mental pressure, because we've been handling it all year," Oertner said. "Because they've handled it so well all season."
The only people in the gymnasium that were not stunned by the score were Warrior head coach Dennis Fry and his team, who lost to Northern Lehigh 47-43 in their only meeting this season.
"We out-rebounded them and frustrated them a bit with our press and I thought we out-hustled them and beat them to the ball," Fry said.
After the break, Northern Lehigh missed a couple of easy chances but seemed to get it together and start to play like they did while reeling off 22 straight regular-season victories. A pass inside to Aimee Oertner was kicked back outside to Sonya Josephson who sank a three. A possession later, a Josephson basket cut the lead to seven 21-14. Then, disaster struck again.
Wilson's Jacelin Muschlitz sank a three-pointer and the Warrior press forced three successive turnovers with transition baskets to match and the lead ballooned to 30-14. The Bulldogs would not climb any closer.
"We came out after half and did everything right and then we missed some layups," Oertner said, "Then we turn the ball over three times and the game was over."
Glovas, who paced the Warriors with 12 first half points, finished with a game-high 18. She lead the Warrior defense that held Aimee Oertner (17.9 ppg.) and Josephson (16.3) to just sixteen points combined.
"We're as good as our guard play because we're not big," Fry said. "Tonight they played really well."
The Lady Bulldogs (22-1), who came in averaging nearly 52-points per game and were behind only once all season, found themselves in an unfamiliar position.
"I was waiting for it to happen all year," Oertner said. "We're going to have nights when we don't shoot well, when he don't execute well, and when we get in foul trouble. Tonight we did it all and then some."
Muschlitz 2-2-2-7, Swaitek 0-2-2-2, Spirko 2-2-2-6, So. Glovas 7-4-6-18, Touhey 0-5-6-5, Stocks 1-1-3-3, Sa. Glovas 0-0-2-0, Santangelo 0-0-0-0, Speigle 0-0-1-0, Totals: 12-16-24-41.
LeVan 0-2-2-2, Bastardi 0-0-0-0, L. Oertner 2-2-3-6, Josephson 3-2-7-9, A. Oertner 3-1-2-7, Howell 0-0-0-0, Seiler 0-0-0-0. 8-7-14-24
Wilson 6 13 17 5 - 41
Northern Lehigh 7 2 7 8 - 24
Three-pointers: W - Muschlitz 1; NL - Josephson 1.