Nearly two full games in 24 hours could have left the Northern Lehigh boys basketball team devoid of energy entering the second half of play against Colonial League foe Catasauqua on Thursday night.
Perhaps the fact the Bulldogs trailed midway through the third quarter created an overriding sense of urgency, because they found enough juice to track down several key rebounds that combined with accurate late free-throw shooting and enabled them to rally for a 60-55 victory.
"In the second half, I thought we came out and played with a lot more confidence," said Northern Lehigh coach Jeff Miller, whose team was coming off a 58-49 overtime win against Pen Argyl a night earlier. "We hit some big shots and rebounded much better in the second half.
"At halftime, we talked about not giving up second and third opportunities, which I thought we did in the first half. We limited that in that second half and I thought we played tougher; we dove on the floor for loose balls and did more of the little things needed to win."
The Bulldogs' offense started to shake off a sluggish start in the second quarter when freshman Joe Egan nailed three of his game-high five three-pointers to cut the deficit to 26-23 entering the break.
That momentum carried into the second half as Northern Lehigh (3-1, 3-1) outscored Catty 24-15 in the third quarter, taking its first lead of the game at 35-33 on an Aaron Hoffman basket with 4:10 left in the decisive frame.
"A nice surprise tonight was the performance of Aaron Hofmann, coming in with 12 points. And they were some big buckets," Miller said of the junior. "But Joe Egan kept us in the game late in the first half. We were down early and he hit some big threes that got us right back in the game. For a freshman to be able to step up and do that should be a nice confidence booster for him."
Northern Lehigh sealed the game from the free throw line. The Bulldogs made seven-of-eight tries during the final quarter, with senior guard Matt Egan converting five-of-six during that span.
Egan scored a game-high 19 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, while Tyler Dibilio added 10 points to give the Bulldogs four players in double figures. Senior Josh Landsberger finished with four points and helped Northern Lehigh maintain its advantage on the boards throughout the contest.
"We just tried to push the ball in the second half," the elder Egan said of the Bulldogs' mentality. "We just chipped away at the lead and got ourselves back into the game and went from there."
More than half of Catty's (4-2, 3-2) points came from two seniors, with Paryss Marshall and Brandon Purrone each tallying 16 points.
Northern Lehigh will once again be faced with a quick turnaround, as the Bulldogs will travel to Palmerton tomorrow for another critical league game early in the season. But Miller will savor this one while he can.
"This was certainly a really nice win for us," the coach said. "It's been a tough week, playing last night and now looking forward to a rivalry game against Palmerton on Saturday. So we'll come back to practice tomorrow and get ready for that.
"But I want them to enjoy this. It was a great win against a good, well-coached team and I'm very happy with it."
Marshall 8-0-0-16, Wetherhold 2-2-2-7, Purrone 8-0-0-16, D. Bond 1-0-2-2, K. Bond 2-2-2-6, Schiffer 3-0-0-6, Houser 1-0-0-2, Kober 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-4-6-55.
M. Egan 5-9-12-19, Dibilio 2-5-6-10, J. Egan 5-0-0-15, Hofmann 5-2-2-12, Landsberger 2-0-0-4, McNair 0-0-0-0. Totals 19-16-20-60.
Catasauqua 12 14 15 14 - 55
No. Lehigh 5 18 24 13 - 60
Three-pointers: C - Wetherhold 1; NL - J. Egan 5, Dibilio 1.