CATASAUQUA - Josh Malaska didn't expect to be on the floor for Northern Lehigh's Colonial League semifinal against Wilson Wednesday night. At least not if the game was close.
A JV starter, the junior guard doesn't play in every varsity game. But when Bulldog head coach Rich Oertner looked to Malaska in the most important game of the season, he answered the call, leading the Bulldogs to a 30-29 overtime win over the Warriors. They will meet top-seeded Notre Dame in Friday night's final. The Crusaders beat Southern Lehigh, 68-52 in the other semifinal held last night at Catasauqua.
Malaska, who entered the game with a minute left in regulation and Northern Lehigh down 27-24, hit a game-tying three-pointer to send it to overtime then canned another with eight seconds left in the extra stanza to win it.
"I really didn't think I was going to get in this game," Malaska said. "But when coach called for a shooter I was there and went in and did my job. They both felt good right when they left my hand. I knew they were going in."
Malaska played in 10 games this year. His season high nine points came the last time he faced Wilson.
"Last game he made three threes against us," said Wilson head coach Bob Frankenfield. "We knew he could shoot. We held a team that averaging 61 points to 30."
As the score indicates, the game was a defensive scrum. The Warriors held Northern Lehigh to just two first-half field goals a three-quarter-court shot by Bobby Hahn to end the first period and a steal and lay up by Waylen in the second period.
Wilson jumped out to a 9-1 lead late in the first quarter as Northern Lehigh committed four turnovers in the first four minutes.
After making four of 10 shots in the first quarter, the Warriors made just seven of 35 the rest of the way while shotting 1-for-14 from three-point range for the game.
The Bulldogs shot 10-for-39 from the field and 7-for-17 at the foul line as Wilson limited its two top scorers. Jordan Waylen scored just three points. He averages 15.5 per game. Nick Pappas, who averages 13.2 per game, had just two points.
"There's no way you win a game like that unless you're playing good defense," Northern Lehigh head coach Rich Oertner said. "We've won a lot games this year by playing defense. And Wilson wins that way too."
Wilson opnened an 18-14 lead in third quarter, but Northern Lehigh tied it 20-20. The Warriors opened a five-point lead in the fourth, 27-22 with 4:14 left, but they went scoreless the rest of the way.
A Hahn basket with 2:23 left got the Bulldogs within three.
Malaska's game-tying shot in regulation came off a Waylen pass with 39 seconds left. It shifted the momentum to the Bulldogs, who did not have a lead during regulation.
"I knew it was going to be close," Hahn said. "When we put it into overtime I knew it was our game. Josh came up totally clutch with his shots."
Wilson got momentum back by forcing two turnovers early in overtime and pulling ahead 29-27 on a Kowan Scott basket just 28 seconds into the four-minute period.
But the Bulldogs clamped down and didn't allow another basket.
On the game-winning possession, Hahn missed a three-pointer, Waylen came up with the rebound and found Malaska near the corner. He swished it with eight seconds left and his team got one last stop to seal the win.
"He can shoot it," Northern Lehigh head coach Rich Oertner said. "That's his game."
Northern Lehigh made three of seven three-point attempts, with Malaska going 2-for-2.
Evan Biegley had a solid night offensively. He led Northern Lehigh with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor.
Seremula 0-0-0-0, Hahn 3-2-2-9, Glose 0-0-0-0, Waylen 1-1-6-3, Malaska 2-0-0-6, Biegly 4-2-5-10, Pappas 0-2-4-2. TOTALS: 10-7-17-30.
Monahan 0-0-0-0, McCoale 0-0-0-0, Cooper 1-0-2-3, Sostorecz 0-0-0-0, Scott 3-2-4-8, Parr 3-0-0-6, Spirko 1-0-0-2, Berger 2-2-4-6, Davidson 1-2-2-4. TOTALS: 11-6-11-29.
No. Lehigh 4 6 10 7 3 - 30
Wilson 9 7 5 6 2 - 29
Three-pointers: NL - Malaska 2, Hahn 1; W - Cooper 1.