As the regular season winds down on the Northern Lehigh girls basketball season, head coach Dave Oertner seems to get more intense.
With four games remaining, the Bulldogs' mentor seems to know when to push the right buttons to get his team to do what it needs to get a win.
That held true again on Friday night as Northern Lehigh pulled away from a stubborn Bangor team for a 39-27 Colonial League win, to run its record to 18-0 on the season.
The victory also clinched a spot in the Colonial League playoffs for the Bulldogs who are 12-0 with four games remaining.
The Bulldogs actually scored the last eight points of the game (the final six from the free throw line) to pull out the double-digit win.
"We really struggled early, then we got in foul trouble and we just had to try and survive," said a relieved Oertner afterwards.
Aimee Oertner picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and Tina Bastardi picked up three fouls for the Bulldogs, while Morgan McCullian had three fouls early for Bangor.
The Slaters trailed by just two (14-12) at the half and eventually tied it up at 16-16 early in the third quarter.
Aimee Oertner's driving layup and converted free throw gave the Bulldogs a 19-16 advantage, but with 3:26 still remaining in the stanza, Bastardi picked up her fourth foul.
Karly Kosek made both free throws so the Slaters just wouldn't go away.
Aimee Oertner committed her fourth foul just 29 seconds later, forcing the Bulldogs to go into a more deliberate offense. Kristi Seiler came off the bench to spell Bastardi, while Rebecca Howell rotated in and out with Aimee on an offensive-defensive switch to keep the latter from fouling out.
The moves worked with the closest Bangor would get the rest of the night was within three with 6:32 remaining.
"Tina was a bit under the weather tonight," Oertner noted. "We played her tonight and she just didn't look like herself.
Normally she's pretty good at staying out of foul trouble. Either her or Aimee had to stay on the bench because if one of them foul out, we need somebody else to handle the ball."
When the two were on the bench in the fourth quarter, the call went to Sonya Josephson, who scored six of Josephson, who scored six of her 14 points during the final eight minutes including a big three-pointer with 5:52 left in the game to put the Slaters under the gun.
"This is the third or fourth time we've dodge being in foul trouble this year," he said. "That's the one thing that could really hurt us. We talk about playing smart before every game. I want them to come out of the first half with no more than one foul and it never happens.
"If we win Tuesday, we win the division. Once we win the division, then we'll talk about what we have to do to be top seed. Mathematically, it isn't ours yet. We have a lot of unfinished business."
Aimee Oertner finished just ahead of Josephson with 15 points. Corinne Kessler's eight points led Bangor.
Kuchar 0-0-0-0, Kessler 3-0-2-8, Kosek 2-2-2-6, Hopkins 1-0-0-3, Sullivan 0-0-0-0, Bisci 2-0-2-4, Schiavone 0-0-2-0, Benton 0-0-0-0, McCullian 2-2-2-6. TOTALS: 10-4-10-27.
Levan 0-0-0-0, Bastardi 0-2-4-2, L. Oertner 3-0-0-6, Josephson 3-7-9-14, A. Oertner 6-3-7-15, Howell 0-0-0-0, Seiler 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 13-12-20-39.
Bangor 4 8 6 9 - 27
No. Lehigh 8 6 7 18 - 39
Three-Pointers: Bangor - Kessler 2, Hopkins 1; Northern Lehigh - Josephson 1.