Lehighton head coach Rich Oertner knew he had to stop Northern Lehigh's inside game if his team was going to have a shot to beat the Bulldogs in the first round of the Slatington Rotary Tournament on Tuesday night.
The Indians were able to pose some problems for the Bulldogs in the first quarter, but a 12-point run to start the second quarter and only a two-point answer from the Indians gave Northern Lehigh the push it needed for a 54-38 triumph and a spot in Wednesday night's championship game against Jim Thorpe.
"I don't know that we played our best and that had a lot to do with what Lehighton was trying to do defensively," said Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller. "A couple of their gimmick defenses hurt us, but once we adjusted to it, hit some shots and calmed down a little bit, we were fine."
The Indians had a 7-5 lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter, but the Bulldogs ran off five straight before Nate Kresge hit his second three-pointer of the game to tie it at 10-10 after one.
Thatcher George started the Northern Lehigh run with a trey 30 seconds into the second quarter and it continued with buckets underneath by Caleb Johnson and Lucas Pierce and another trey by Shawn Shupp. All the Indians could muster the rest of the half was a pair of free throws with 46 seconds left by Jacen Nalesnik.
"We tried to take their big guys out of the game and some of their other guys came up and made some shots," said Oertner afterwards. "Thatcher George made a shot, Tyler Dibilio made a shot and Bubba Shupp made a shot. We took the big guns away, but three other guys who we didn't expect made three good shots and that put us in the hole and that was the bottom line."
The Buldogs outscored the Indians by two in both the third and fourth quarters as Pierce had 10 of his 14 points in the second half, while Matt Egan had all five of his points after the break.
Northern Lehigh was also unconscious at the charity stripe making seven of eight in the fourth quarter to keep the Indians from getting any closer than nine points in the second half and 14 in the final eight minutes/
"We just don't score, we can't shoot," said Oertner. "We're working on it.
"I'm certainly not upset with their hustle, but we just have to get better offensively if we want to win some games."
Sophomore Josh Landsberger backed up Pierce with nine points for the Bulldogs. Kresge had 12 and James Farano came off the bench to hit a pair of threes and finish with 10 points for the Indians.
"Lucas (Pierce) made some shots in the second half and another nice thing was the way our big men passed the ball," added Miller. "Lehighton went to that 1-3-1 trap and once we got the ball in the middle, we got the ball down low, we were able to kind of convert off some nice interior passing off our big men."
The Indians will face Palmerton in the consolation game tonight at 6:30, followed by the championship game between the Bulldogs and Jim Thorpe.
Rossino 2-0-0-4, Farano 4-0-0-10, Kresge 5-0-2-12, Guyn 1-0-0-2, Crum 1-0-0-2, Jo. Knappenberger 1-0-0-3, Mele 0-0-0-0, Nalesnik 1-3-3-5, Kerschner 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-3-5-38.
George 1-0-0-3, Egan 1-3-4-5, Shupp 1-0-0-3, Dibilio 2-0-0-5, J. Pristash 1-0-0-5, Glose 2-0-0-4, Landsberger 2-5-6-9, Johnson 2-2-2-6, Pierce 7-0-0-14. TOTALS: 19-10-12-54.
Lehighton 10 2 13 13 - 38
No. Lehigh 10 14 15 15 - 54
Three-pointers: L - Farano 2, Kresge 2, Knappenberger 1; NL - George 1, Shupp 1, Dibilio 1, J. Pristash 1.