CATASAUQUA - Down 17-3 in the first quarter, the Palmerton girls could have easily thrown in the towel last night in their Colonial League semifinal against Southern Lehigh.
Instead, the Lady Bombers chipped away and chipped away before coming up short in dropping a 43-38 decision to the Spartans.
With the win, Southern Lehigh will move on to Friday night's championship game against Northern Lehigh, the other semifinal winner, in a 6 p.m. tipoff at Liberty High School in Bethlehem.
Despite an off night at the foul line and numerous missed layups, Palmerton was able to battle back each quarter and had pulled within three (39-36) with 2:58 remaining.
Julia Nemeth made both free throws to put the Spartans back up by five again with 1:06 left, before Kelsey Hay made one of two free throws with 28 ticks on the clock to pull the Bombers within four.
The Spartans turned the ball over and Gina Farquhar was fouled with 12 seconds left and made one of two to make it 41-38.
Palmerton had a chance for a steal a couple of times, but had to foul with 6.4 seconds left and Elani Dimou made both to put the game away.
"After that slow start, we outplayed them the rest of the game," said Palmerton head coach Don Delich, who will now prepare his team for the District 11 AAA playoffs next week. "If we make a little better shooting percentage from the foul line and we make some layups, I think it's anybody's game."
It was actually a run of 12 straight points by the Spartans, with Bridgette Dougherty scoring six of her eight points on the night in the stretch, that gave her team the 14-point lead in the first quarter.
"We talked a lot about starting off the game strong," said Southern Lehigh head coach Megan Dellegrotti. "Jumping on them early, being aggressive, trying to relax from the start. We came ready to play, we were focused.
"I explained to our kids it's going to be a game of runs. We're going to go on a run, they're going to go on a run and it's the team that is going to withstand the other ones run that will survive."
Palmerton came back to cut it to eight three times during the second quarter and trailed 17-19 at halftime. Kelsey Hay and Casey Rinfret, who accounted for 29 of the Bombers' 38 points, had eight each in the first half.
The unsung hero for the Spartans was freshman Melann Amory, who finished with a team-high 13 points, draining three from beyond the arc.
"She's part of their unbeaten JV team and I knew she was a good player," said Delich, of Amory. "Megan does a great job of using her bench and uses it wisely and that decision worked out well for her. A couple of those three's that she stuck were at critical moments. We were coming back when she stuck that last one.
"Actually I thought we'd do a little bit better job defensively the entire game. It got to be a little bit more of a half court game than I wanted it to be, but in the second half it was played at our pace because I felt we controlled the tempo. Unfortunately it was too little, too late."
Hay finished the night with a game-high 17 points and added 14 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Rinfret added 12 and had six steal in the process.
And the Bombers caused the Spartans to turn the ball over 21 times also, but it wasn't their night.
Reimer 1-0-0-2, Romano 1-0-0-2, Rinfret 4-3-6-12, Farquhar 1-3-4-5, Snyder 0-0-0-0, Hay 5-6-12-17. TOTALS: 12-12-22-38.
Dimou 2-2-3-6, Nemeth 2-2-2-8, Sullivan 1-0-1-2, Cerciello 0-0-0-0, Daugherty 4-0-0-8, Amory 5-0-0-13, Doell 2-0-1-4, Reichl 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 17-4-7-43.
Palmerton 7 12 7 12 - 38
So. Lehigh 17 10 7 9 - 43
Three-pointers: Palmerton - Rinfret 1, Hay 1; So. Lehigh - Amore 3, Nemeth 2.