The hardest part about preparing for opponents in the PIAA State Basketball Tournament usually stems from the lack of familiarity.
For the District 11 Class AA runner-up Northern Lehigh girls, the hardest part was getting a roster of their first-round foe. In fact, up until Tuesday night, Bulldog head coach Dave Oertner had a sole videotape of one game from Bishop McDevitt's season.
Regardless of the speed bumps in the scouting report, count on Oertner to have his squad prepped and ready to take on the Royal Lancers Friday night at 6 p.m. at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill.
"If we play like we are capable of playing, I like our chances of getting a win," Oertner said. "At this point in the season, it's all about surviving the night."
In order to continue on, the Lady Bulldogs will need to get the job done on both sides of the ball as McDevitt brings a guard-oriented lineup that features some long-distance shooters.
"They're not really big," Oertner said. "Basically, there are five guards on the floor for them at all times. I think their biggest girl is about 5-9, so we're going to need to adapt to that kind of opponent."
Northern Lehigh (22-4, 14-2) would love to get into a halfcourt game, where it can dictate the pace of play and pound the ball inside, exploiting their height advantage.
"We need to try and get the ball inside," Oertner said. "They play mostly zone, so we're going to need to hit some jumpers, as well. But we'll put the ball inside as much as we can."
Defensively, with a guard-laden opponent, Oertner expects pressure, fast pace, outside shooting and penetration.
"On defense, we'll need to get out on the threes," he said. "(Chanel) Brooks and (Julie) Kostic can shoot well, and we are going to need to prevent the penetration from (Savannah) Davis."
Brooks is averaging 8.5 points a game and according to Oertner, from the game footage he's seen, is the main outside threat. Savannah Davis is one half of a 'Davis tandem' with Tasha Davis. They average about the same amount of points (3.5 ppg). Kostic, Kamilah Berrian, Kassandra Ford and Allison Parks are other players who see action.
The biggest question mark comes with Chelsea Burroughs. According to the statistics, she has 171 points on the season, is the team's highest scorer, and biggest option for McDevitt. However, she remained off the floor the last couple of games, according to the scouting report. Despite the mystery, NL plans to prepare for her presence.
When asked about the mental side of playing in the first round of the PIAA tournament, Oertner seemed optimistic.
"The girls are pretty calm and relaxed in practices, but come Friday night, they'll realize they're in the State Tournament," he said. "We had a pretty long layoff, but we've been here before and I think the layoff is actually helping us."
Some of the Bulldogs have had recurring injuries spring up lately and the break is providing some much-needed healing time. "With some of the girls hurt, the layoff helps. They're starting to get a little closer to 'normal."
Upon first glance, Bishop McDevitt remains a mystery in itself, in that their record for the season is at 5-16.
Oertner said that can be a little deceiving.
"Some of their opponents during the season were Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Carroll, which are two of the best programs in the state," he said. "They've played some tough teams and they're pretty good or else they wouldn't be there."
With all of the questions surrounding their opponent, one thing remains the same Northern Lehigh is more than capable of playing high quality basketball. Oertner expects the Bulldogs to prove that again on Friday night.