Northern Lehigh used a huge second half and a career night from Tyler Dibilio to defeat Lehighton, 61-38 in the opening round of the 32nd Annual Slatington Rotary Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs (3-2) held a slim 22-21 lead heading into the half, but exploded out of the gate to outscore the Indians 18-5 in the third quarter.
Northern Lehigh used a 13-0 run that lasted from late in the third quarter into the fourth to extend the lead from 31-26 to 44-26, which essentially put the game out of reach for Lehighton.
The catalyst for the Bulldogs offense was junior guard Tyler Dibilio, who scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
To put Dibilio's second half in perspective, the junior had as many points as the entire Lehighton team.
Northern Lehigh coach Jeff Miller had nothing but praise for Dibilio and his work ethic after the game.
"Tyler played the game of his career," Miller said. "We really look for him now.
"He works hard everyday. He's been working on his shot, his ball-handling and his drive to the basket."
Dibilio certainly showed off all facets of his game on this night, as he hit shots in the lane and on the perimeter with relative ease.
Josh Eden added 15 points for the Bulldogs ,while Lucas Pierce chipped in another 11 points.
Coach Miller said that the focus at halftime was to adjust to what Lehighton (4-4) was giving them and play better defense.
"We weren't moving well in the first half," Miller said. "We wanted to come out and make their defense work for us in the second half."
Northern Lehigh stymied Lehighton's leading scorer, Tyler Crum, limiting him to three points in the game. Crum was held to one point in the first half.
The leading scorer for the Indians was Jacen Nalesnik, who scored 11points in the contest.
Lehighton coach Rich Oertner lamented his player's lack of focus and patience as the main reasons for his team's struggles in the second half.
"We turned the ball over too much in the second half," Oertner said. "We turned the ball over for no reason at all.
"We got into panic mode in the second half. We had absolutely no patience in the second half."
While Lehighton has shown improvement this season, Oertner doesn't feel the team is where they need to be just yet.
"We have played good basketball from time-to-time this year, but we just haven't put it all togther yet," Oertner said.
With the win, Northern Lehigh will move on to the championship game and will face Jim Thorpe, who defeated Palmerton earlier in the evening.
Miller believes that he has the team on the right track and playing as a cohesive unit.
"I really want the kids to buy in to what we're doing and play strong defense," Miller said.
Miller has respect for what the Olympians will bring to the table.
"Jim Thorpe has a lot of athletes," Miller said. "We will want to come out and control the tempo and pace of the game."
Rossino 1-0-0-2, Farano 1-3-4-6, Crum 0-5-6-5, Thompson 0-0-0-0, Jo. Knappenberger 1-0-0-3, Mele 4-0-0-8, Nalesnik 5-1-2-11, Williams 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 13-9-12-38
Egan 2-0-0-4, Dibilio 8-6-7-24, Eden 6-2-2-15, Hoffman 0-0-0-0, Landsberg 2-0-4-4, Johnson 1-1-1-3, Pierce 5-1-2-11. TOTALS: 24-10-16-61.
Lehighton 10 11 5 12 38
No. Lehigh 10 12 18 21 61
Three-Pointers: L - Farano 1, Knappenberger 1, Williams 1; NL - Dibilio 2, Eden 1.