CATASAUQUA - Tuesday night marked the second time in as many games that Northern Lehigh faced off with Wilson.
Although it was 17 days after their initial meeting on Feb. 12, Tuesday's District 11 AAA semi-final had a feel eerily similar to their first match-up.
Much like the first meeting, Northern Lehigh forward Caleb Johnson picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes of play and was forced to watch the remainder of the first half from the bench.
Later in the third quarter the Bulldogs had a number of chances to tie the game or take the lead, but turned the ball over on three straight possessions and were never able to get over the hump.
The only difference in the end turned out to be the score. Whereas Wilson won by three points in the first meeting, the Warriors pulled away late and won 43-36. Wilson will now play No. 4 ACC on Friday at Liberty for the District 11 crown.
Despite having their young big-man in early foul trouble once again, the Bulldogs were down only three points at the break. Because of that, Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller was content with the deficit. However he wasn't content with his team's ball movement.
"I wasn't happy with the way we were running our offense," said Miller. "We seemed to make one or two passes and just stop in our sets. I think a lot of that had to do with our inexperience.
"I think our inexperience showed tonight more so than any other time this year. I was worried about that only because of the 'bright lights' and how much was on the line with this game. Effort-wise I can't fault them. Their effort was great and they have done that all year long for me."
Wilson went to work on the offensive glass in the first quarter and led by three late. Kowan Scott did the majority of his damage in the opening frame, as he tallied seven of his game-high 16 points in the first eight minutes.
Still, Northern Lehigh hung tough. Jordan Waylen nailed a three-pointer with two seconds remaining to tie the game at nine.
The second quarter was back-and-forth throughout. Neither team led by more than two points until the final two minutes when Scott converted on a three-point play. However, that turned out to be the final bucket of the half and the Warriors went into the half up 20-17.
Wilson then started the second half with a 4-0 and forced Miller into a quick timeout. The stoppage seemed to work as the Bulldogs responded with a 5-0 run of their own and forced Wilson into a timeout of its own. As time wore on, Northern Lehigh had a couple of opportunities to either tie the game or take the lead. Instead, the Bulldogs turned the ball over and let their chances slip away.
"We had a spot where we had like four possessions to tie or take the lead," Miller said. "I think three out of those four possessions we didn't even get a shot. It certainly was a tribute to Wilson's defense, but our inexperience was part of it too. We had some turnovers that were uncharacteristic of us during the year, but they hurt us tonight and they seemed to be at key times."
Johnson picked up four straight points on one possession in the fourth to bring Northern Lehigh to within two (33-31), but it would never get any closer. Scott scored six more points before fouling out with 1:27 to go. After going 1-for-11 from the free-throw line up until crunch time, the Warriors went 4-for-5 down the stretch to seal the deal.
The loss ends Northern Lehigh's season at 15-7. In Miller's first year at the helm, he led the Bulldogs back to the semi-finals for the first time since 2007-08 when they won the district title at the AA level - albeit only five teams qualified for the AAA playoffs this year. Due to their abundance of youth, Miller is looking forward to the future.
"For me it was one of the most enjoyable years I have had in coaching," said Miller. "I had 15 great kids that worked hard every day at practice. I couldn't ask for more. The effort that they have given us was tremendous. As hard as this loss is we are so young."
Dibilio 0-0-0-0, Glose 2-1-2-5, Waylen 6-1-3-15, Johnson 3-1-3-7, Pierce 3-1-4-7, Middaugh 0-0-0-0, Rankin 1-0-0-2, Landsberger 0-0-0-0, Malaska 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-4-12-36.
Scott 7-1-1-16, Terry 4-0-0-8, Spirko 5-2-3-12, Cooper 1-2-2-5, Parker 1-0-6-2, Sostorecz 0-0-2-0, Lewis 0-0-1-0, Steckler 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-5-15-43.
No. Lehigh 9 8 7 12 - 36
Wilson 9 11 9 14 - 43
Three-pointers: No. Lehigh - Waylen 2; Wilson - Scott 1, Cooper 1.