There was nothing pretty about the Colonial League match-up between Palmerton and Northern Lehigh Monday night.
Although both schools are two of the better teams in the league, neither took care of the ball well nor converted on many shot attempts. Still, there was no second-guessing the effort put forth by either team.
The Bombers gave unbeaten Northern Lehigh all it could handle and then some, but came up short in overtime, 57-46.
"This wasn't one of our best games, but give Palmerton credit," said Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner. "They did some crazy things. I asked [Palmerton coach] Don [Delich] before the game what they had dialed up for us and he said I was going to find out in a few minutes. They know us well and made adjustments and made it hard for us to score.
"We came out in overtime and scored early and that got us to relax. Then Sonya (Josephson) hit a three and gave us a five-point lead. I think we turned up the defensive intensity from that point on and forced Palmerton into some turnovers."
The contest had "overtime" written all over it from the get-go. Even though Palmerton jumped out to an early 9-3 lead, Northern Lehigh got back to within two by halftime. The Bulldogs (9-0) then chipped away in the second half and eventually led by five midway through the fourth quarter.
But the Bombers (6-3) didn't come that far to go quietly. A Kelsey Hay runner at the three minute mark tied the game at 37. The Bulldogs would take another three-point lead with just over a minute to go, but two Hay free-throws with 21 seconds left knotted up the score once again. From there Casey Rinfret missed the front end of a one-and-one after a steal and teammate Katie Reimer missed a buzzer-beating three-pointer following another Northern Lehigh turnover.
"It was a close game throughout and we even had a chance to pull it out late in regulation," said Delich. "We just came up short in overtime. This was a heck of a high school basketball game."
Aimee Oertner and Josephson did the majority of their damage in the second half for the Bulldogs. Both scored 14 points after halftime and finished with 23 and 20 points respectively. Oertner once again recorded a double-double, as she ripped down 13 rebounds and blocked four shots. Josephson blocked a handful of shots as well.
"I don't like the fact that we didn't play well for the majority of the game, but it's a tribute to the character of the team," Oertner said. "The same thing happened against Bangor (a 56-52 overtime win for the Bulldogs). We played bad for four quarters and then pulled it together in overtime."
For Palmerton, Hay finished with a game-high 24 points, grabbed 11 rebounds. She also came through in crunch-time, as she scored all 10 of the Bombers' fourth quarter points.
"Coming into this season I thought we had to close the gap," said Delich. "We graduated three girls from last year and had to get better. They have everyone back and will have basically everyone back next year too which I don't want to even think about. Dave does such a great job and they are a great team.
"But I thought we had to close the gap and we are almost there. I promise we will continue to work even harder until we see them again later in the season."
Rinfret 2-0-1-5, Hay 5-13-16-24, Reimer 3-1-4-7, Snyder 1-0-0-2, Romano 3-1-1-7, Smith 0-0-0-0, Farquhar 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 14-16-22-46.
LeVan 0-3-4-3, Bastardi 3-4-6-11, L. Oertner 0-0-0-0, Josephson 6-6-9-20, A. Oertner 7-9-14-23, Howell 0-0-0-0, Seiler 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-22-33-57.
Palmerton 12 10 9 10 5 - 46
No. Lehigh 9 11 10 11 16 - 57
Three-Pointers: P - Rinfret, Hay; NL - Josephson 2, Bastardi.