SHAMOKIN - The Northern Lehigh girls' basketball team saw itself in a bit of unfamiliar grounds during its PIAA Class 3A State playoff game with Shikellamy at Shamokin High School.
Over the course of their memorable undefeated regular season, the Bulldogs usually were the ones playing 'lead dog.'
This time, the Bulldogs found themselves playing a bit of catch-up.
There wasn't enough fight left, however, as Shikellamy (22-5) ended Nolehi's (24-3) successful season, 50-46.
With the win, Shikellamy advanced to Wednesday night's round against Archbishop Wood, the No. 3 team out of District 12.
"That's a real new experience for us to come from behind because we have been ahead in so many games this year," Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner said. "A win was there for us to take, but we just didn't finish it. We were in position to win the game, but the breaks down the stretch didn't go our way. We just couldn't make that big play when we had to.
"We just came up a little short - that's all. We ran out of time. With a little more time, I think we would have had that game."
After the Bulldogs took a 4-2 lead with 5:08 left in the first quarter, it was Shikellamy who quickly utilized its full court press to cage Northern Lehigh's attack.
The Braves turned up the pressure forcing the Bulldogs to commit a season-high 24 turnovers, which soon developed into a comfortable 17-point lead by 2:01 left in the third quarter.
Shikellamy's Megan Slonaker had the hot hand in the second scoring six of her 13 points, while it was her teammate Kelly Bickel, who raised havoc on the Bulldogs in the third, scoring eight of her game-high 17 points.
"We have been playing passively the last couple of weeks," Oertner said. "And we're not making things happen on offense. They played good defense and we didn't play good offense. They had 20 of their points off of our turnovers. That made for an ugly game for awhile.
"So, it was just our lack of taking care of the basketball. It has been a problem for us this year. As good as we played some times, we have struggled with pressure."
It took a little time, but 5-1 sophomore Tina Bastardi found a way to rile up her teammates a bit.
After putting together a 6-0 run all by herself that carried from the third into the fourth quarter, Lauren and Aimee Oertner, along with Sonya Josephson, began to claw away at the Braves lead.
Over the first six minutes of the final stanza, the Bulldogs turned a 10-point deficit into a one-point lead with 1:42 left in the game.
While three-pointers from Bastardi and Josephson keyed the 15-2 run, it was Aimee Oertner's first bucket since 18-seconds into the second quarter that put the Bulldogs on top - 43-42 - once again.
Twenty-three seconds later, Emily Daddario gave the Braves the lead back when she scored on a driving layup.
After that, both teams went to the charity stripe plenty, but it was the Braves' six-for-six performance that sealed the victory and put an end to one fine season for the Bulldogs.
"To be honest, we had a chance," Oertner said. "We called a time out and got the lay-up and got the lead. I thought this one is ours. Coming down though, we just got a little over aggressive on defense. We had the lead. If we would have got a stop there, we win the ball game because we would have taken our time with the ball and pull it out. But, we couldn't back off. We're so used to being aggressive we came out and were aggressive and gave them the lay-up.
"I can't say enough about how proud I am about how they came back. They didn't give up. It says a lot about their character all year."
"We have played good defense all year. It's nothing new," Shikellamy coach Lew Dellegrotti said. "Our kids thought it was going to be easy at the end and they got a bit unfocused. Give the credit to Northern Lehigh. They played a tough game. Those kids definitely didn't quit. But, when it came down to crunch time, our kids made the plays they had to make.
"However, Northern Lehigh is going to be heard from for another year or two I'm sure."
LeVan 2-2-4-6, Bastardi 4-3-4-12, L. Oertner 2-3-4-7, Josephson 4-1-2-10, A. Oertner 4-3-4-11, Howell 0-0-0-0, Seiler 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-12-18-46.
Daddario 2-0-0-4, Angstadt 2-2-2-6, Bickel 7-2-2-17, Sloanker 6-1-2-13, Onessi 1-0-0-2, Hall 0-0-0-0, Reed 2-4-4-8. TOTALS: 20-9-10-50.
No. Lehigh 9 4 15 18 - 46
Shikellamy 4 7 17 10 - 50
Three-pointers: NL - Bastardi 1, Josephson 1; Shikellamy - Bickel 1.