CATASAUQUA - Northern Lehigh has come so close to winning a girls basketball championship of late, it can taste it.
The Lady Bulldogs went through the regular season unbeaten last year and came away empty in the end, losing the district 3A title to Central Catholic.
Last week, they had a chance to win the Colonial league title, only to see Southern Lehigh take it away.
On Friday night, they'll get another chance, thanks to a 40-32 win over Pen Argyl on Tuesday night in a District 11 Clas s 2A semifinal at Catasauqua.
They'll meet Pine Grove, a 47-32 winner over Notre Dame of Green Pond, on Friday night at 7:30 at William Allen.
The Green Knights were able to score just two points in the first eight minutes allowing Northern Lehigh to jump out to a 7-2 lead, despite some early turnovers.
"We had some bad turnovers, but I'll be honest with you we played really good defense," said Northern Lehigh head coach Dave Oertner.
"They got some long rebounds on us which hurt us, but I thought we played great defense and I thought we got great shots. We couldn't get anything to fall."
Pen Argyl's first two points came with 23 seconds left in the opening quarter on a short jumper by Laura Cinelli.
The Bulldogs were lucky to have junior Aimee Oertner on the floor since she is still hobbled by a badly sprained ankle from last Friday. It's the same ankle she hurt back in August and it took until the start of the season for her to be 100 percent. She headed right to a whirlpool after the game to try and get the swelling down.
"We're playing hurt," added the Bulldogs mentor. "We haven't practiced as a team in a week and a half. Just to survive I was really happy."
The Knights were able to cut it to one in the first minute of the second quarter, but Lauren Oertner scored off a rebound and Sonya Josephson from underneath to give Nolehi a 11-6 lead. With 1:24 left in the half, Sara Vough hit a jumper after nailing a three from beyond the arc moments earlier and Pen Argyl was within one again (13-12).
Just as they did earlier and every time the Knights would get close, Aimee Oertner drove the lane for two and Christina Bastardi nailed a three-pointer giving Northern Lehigh a 18-12 advantage at intermission.
"We got some perimeter shooting going in the second half, but if you don't score, it's tough," said Pen Argyl coach Dave Moyer. This is a better team, so when you spot them seven points, you're clawing back all night."
A five-point run at the end of the third quarter gave the Bulldogs a 26-17 edge entering the final eight minutes. A couple of treys by Kassy Beckage and Laura Cinelli sandwiched around a Kristi Seiler deuce cut it to give and four straight points by the Knights cut it to 31-27 with 3:20 left.
The Bulldogs answered with a six-point run on field goals by Bastardi, Aimee Oertner and Lauren Oertner to take their biggest lead of the night, 37-27, with 1:20 remaining and it was too much for the Knights this time.
"They got nothing inside on us and I think that was the difference in the game," Dave Oertner said. "I just hope we can get back to full strength for Friday. Bastardi hurt her arm tonight to go along with an injured heel. Kristi was a little sick tonight, too.
"We're looking forward to play. We don't have too many chances left for a championship. We're missing our opportunities so here's one more chance so hopefully we''ll get one for these girls."
Aimee Oertner finished the night with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Bastardi also added 10 points. Laura Cinelli's game-high 17 points led the Knights, while Sara Vough also hit doubles with 10.
Presby 0-0-0-0, Clause 0-0-0-0, Vough 3-3-4-10, Firestone 0-0-0-0, S. Cinelli 1-0-2-2, L. Cinelli 5-4-4-17, Oyer 0-0-0-0, Beckage 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 10-7-10-32.
Bastardi 4-0-1-10, L. Oertner 2-0-1-4, Josephson 1-5-7-7, A. Oertner 4-4-5-12, Seiler 3-0-0-7. TOTALS: 14-9-14-40.
Pen Argyl 2 10 5 15 - 32
No. Lehigh 7 11 8 14 - 40
Three-pointers: Pen Argyl - L. Cinelli 3, Vough 1, Beckage 1; No. Lehigh - Bastardi 2, Seiler 1.