POTTSVILLE - North Schuylkill saw two big keys to Saturday night's District 11 Class AAA girls quarterfinal against Northwestern.
The Lady Spartans wanted to play solid defense and control the glass. They did both en route to a 31-29 win at Martz Hall, advancing to Wednesday's semifinal game against top-seeded Southern Lehigh.
"We said before the game that if we win the rebounding battle we'll win the game," said Spartan head coach John Rizzo. "We knew how good they are offensively. We needed to defend as well as we ever had. I think we did that tonight."
The Tigers shot just 1 for 13 in the fourth quarter, including missing three attempts in the final seconds that could have tied the game. They made just three of 22 three-point attempts in their second-lowest scoring performance of the season.
"We couldn't make a shot," said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. "If you would have told me before the game we would hold them to 31 points, I would have said we'll win going away. They were in a zone and we just could not make a shot."
Northwestern, the No. 4 seed, trailed most of the first half before pulling ahead twice in the third quarter. The teams went into the fourth tied at 24, but the No. 5 seed Spartans (20-4) scored the first six points of the period and held a 30-24 lead with 3:01 left in the game.
A Sabrina Mertz three-pointer and a pair of free throws from Sara Jones cut the lead to one point with 1:52 remaining, 30-29.
North Schuylkill's Tiffany Lopotsky missed a pair of free throws with 1:37 to go and Dominique Reinoehl made one of two with 42 seconds left, leaving the Tigers behind by two points in the final moments.
Three Northwestern players got off shots in the final 10 seconds, but Mertz, Erika Thomas and Jones all missed their attempts before the buzzer sounded.
"We were very patient there at the end," said Deutsch. "I liked the shots that we did get. We got two or three shots that were good looks."
The Tigers trailed 13-10 at halftime, but their offense started clicking early in the third quarter. A pair of Sarah Segan baskets and a few Trista Cunningham rebounds helped them earn their first lead of the game, 15-13 just 49 seconds in the half.
Northwestern had another three-point lead, 18-15, after finishing an 8-2 run to start the third quarter. The Spartans answered with a 6-0 run that gave them a three-point lead.
North Schuylkill set the tone on the boards in the first quarter, out-rebounding Northwestern 10-4 in the first period, 19-10 in the first half and 41-30 in the game.
"Justine Paul and Carly Gregas, they came to rebound tonight," said Rizzo. "They were excellent on the glass."
Paul had a game-high 13 rebounds. Gregas had seven.
The Tigers struggled shooting the entire game, going 2 for 8 in the first half and 5 for 19 in the first quarter. After a 6 for 17 third period, they went cold again in the fourth.
Segan scored a game-high nine points. Gregas and Lopotsky scored eight each for the Spartans.
The Tigers (22-3) won their first 20 games this season, but lost three of their last five, ending their season without a title.
"I look back at the season as a success," Deutsch said. "To win 22 games is not by accident. There's more to life than winning championships. These girls in my mind are all champions."
Marone 0-0-0-0, Lapotsky 3-2-6-8, Zimmerman 1-0-0-2, Paul 2-0-0-4, Reinoehl 0-2-4-2, Bolinsky 0-0-0-0, Spotts 1-2-4-4, Gregas 3-2-2-8, Damiter 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 11-8-16-31.
Mertz 1-0-2-3, Landrigan 0-0-0-0, Jones 2-2-2-6, Suter 2-0-0-5, Segan 4-0-1-9, Thomas 0-0-0-0, Cunningham 3-0-0-6. TOTALS: 12-2-5-29.
North Schuylkill 6 7 11 7 – 31
Northwestern 4 6 14 5 – 29
Three-pointers: NS – Damiter 1; NW – Mertz 1, Suter 1, Segan 1.