Northern Lehigh head boys basketball coach Jeff Miller knew it was important for his team to pick up a win in its final regular season game against arch-rival Palmerton last night so it would head into the District 11 Class 3A playoffs on a positive note.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs (14-8, 9-7) went on a 28-7 run and rolled to a 61-41 Colonial League victory.
"I knew Palmerton would come out and play well," Miller said. "It's a rivalry game and them getting a win last night gave them some incentive. I tried to instill that into our kids that they weren't going to sit down because Northern Lehigh was coming into their building and they didn't. And that's a credit to their coaching staff and their kids.
"They played real hard and it took us a little bit to wake up. We missed a lot of opportunities early, but we did get it going at the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter."
The Bulldogs opened up a 13-3 lead at the start, but the Bombers cut it to 13-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Thanks to three-pointers from Mark Quinn, Austin Luers and Zack Buck, the Bombers (1-21, 1-15) were able to cut the Bulldogs lead to 21-18 with less than three minutes to go in the half. Northern Lehigh stopped the run and scored the final six points before intermission for a 27-18 lead at the break.
Tyler DiBilio had all eight of his points in the first half and Caleb Johnson was solid from the free throw line early making 5-of-6 and he tallied seven in the first two quarters for the Bulldogs.
Northern Lehigh's size eventually took its toll on the Bombers in the third quarter as the Bulldogs built up a 45-26 advantage entering the final eight minutes.
"When we stay within ourselves and try not to do things we can't do, we're a pretty good team," added Miller. "We're certainly disappointed not being in the Colonial League playoffs. That was one of our goals this year. We have to sit a week now and wait for districts, but we're going to go back to work and try to come out as the team that I know we can be."
Josh Eden had eight points, while Lucas Pierce added six and Johnson four to lead the charge in the quarter. Johnson and Pierce added six and five, respectively, in the fourth quarter before both coaches emptied their bench.
"We played tough tonight and didn't back down from them," said Palmerton head coach Frank McCarroll. "I give credit to Northern Lehigh. They're height killed us. We couldn't get rebounds. They got second and third shots.
"With the season they've had, the guys have never given up. I give them a ton of credit. They could have hung it up a long time ago, but they didn't and never backed down."
Palmerton did salvage a split, winning the JV game by a 52-45. Zach Buck and Nick Frey scored 15 and 15 respectively for the Bombers. Aaron Hofmann had 16 and Nick Hoffer 12 for the Bulldogs.
Hoffer 0-0-0-0, Egan 2-0-0-4, Hamm 0-0-0-0, DiBilio 3-1-2-8, Taylor 0-0-0-0, Smith 0-0-0-0, Eden 5-0-0-10, Hofman 0-2-2-2, Landsberger 2-0-0-4, Novitsky 0-1-2-1, Johnson 6-5-7-17, Lucas Pierce 6-2-2-15, Alejandro 0-0-0-0, Meixsell 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-11-15-61.
Hay 1-0-0-2, Shigo 1-0-1-2, Achterman 0-0-0-0, Lesher 0-2-4-2, Pereira 2-0-0-4, Leaver 1-1-2-3, Quinn 4-0-0-9, Shivone 0-0-0-0, Koma 0-0-4-0, Buck 2-1-2-6, Frey 2-0-0-5, Luers 2-0-0-5, Svetik 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 16-4-13-41.
No. Lehigh 13 14 18 16 - 61
Palmerton 7 11 8 15 - 41
Three-pointers: NL - Pierce 1, DiBilio 1; P - Quinn 1, Buck 1, Frey 1, Luers 1, Svetik 1.