The combination of Jordan Waylen's shooting and Northern Lehigh's stifling zone defense were too much for Northwestern. The Bulldogs opened up a 27-point second-quarter lead and cruised to a 64-34 win last night in New Tripoli.
Waylen heated up with three first-half three pointers. He helped ice the game with three more in the third quarter.
"At first it didn't feel that great," said the senior guard. "But after getting a couple off it just started to click. It was definitely feeling nice. My teammates did a nice job of calling plays for me."
Waylen and the Bulldogs were cold in the first quarter, making just four of 12 shots. But they fed off their defense in the second quarter. They allowed just one Northwestern field goal in the quarter to stretch a seven-point first-quarter lead to 37-10 at halftime.
"We haven't seen a lot of zone," said Northwestern head coach BJ Dugan. "We got a lot of good looks early in the game that we didn't make and that certainly started to take the energy out of us on the defensive end."
Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller switched up his zone defense two games ago, putting 6-foot-5 Caleb Johnson on the point. That defense forced 15 first-half turnovers and 11 steals, which led to easy baskets or trips to the foul line.
"In our zone we're big," Miller said. "Caleb Johnson, with his length, he creates some problems."
"I definitely think that's our best defense," Waylen added.
Waylen made just one of his first three-point attempts and was 1-for-6 from the field in the first quarter. But from in the middle quarters he shot 6-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from three-point range.
"When he has his feet set, he can shoot it with the best of them," Miller said. "When he's playing with the confidence he has, he's hard to stop. He has gym range. If he's in the gym he can make it."
Northern Lehigh (11-6, 6-5) clinched a district playoff berth with the win and still has an outside chance at the Colonial League playoffs.
"It's always nice to get it and qualify," Miller said. "For a young club like we have that was certainly one of our goals."
With a starting line up of one freshman, two sophomores, a junior and a senior, the Bulldogs were an inexperienced team heading into the season. Now they're one that's getting better heading down the homestretch.
"Teams don't want to play us in the playoffs because we're coming," Miller said. "The young kids are growing up."
While Waylen was the high scorer, another star in the game was Northwestern's Dylan Roth. The senior guard has been battling colon cancer through this season. He's goes through chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks and can't play for a week following each treatment.
A starter when he's able to play, Roth postponed treatment just to play last night, his Senior Night.
He got into foul trouble in the first half, but returned to make make three three-pointers in the fourth quarter and score a team-high 11 points. He left to a standing ovation and the student section chanting his name in the fourth quarter.
"I was supposed to have chemotherapy today," he said. "But when it snowed and the game got postponed, I had my parents move it back a night so I could get out here one last time."
George 1-0-0-2, Egan 0-0-0-0, Shupp 0-0-0-0, Dibilio 0-5-6-5, Pristash 1-0-0-2, Glose 3-3-4-9, Waylen 7-0-3-20, Malaska 0-0-0-0, Rankin 2-0-0-4, Eden 1-0-0-2, Hofmann 0-0-0-0, Middaugh 4-0-0-8, Landsberger 0-2-4-2, Johnson 2-2-2-6, Pierce 2-0-0-4. TOTALS: 23-12-19-64.
L. Rivera 0-0-0-0, Snyder 1-0-0-2, A. Rivera 2-2-4-6, Roth 4-0-0-11, Bachman 0-0-0-0, Ettle 1-0-0-2, Maher 0-0-0-0, Dorney 1-0-0-2, M. Rivera 1-0-0-3, Williams 0-0-0-0, Storm 3-1-2-7, Richardson 0-0-0-0, Danner 0-0-0-0, Binder 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 13-4-8-34.
Northern Lehigh 14 23 16 11 – 64
Northwestern 7 3 8 16 – 34
Three-pointers – NL: Waylen 6; NW: Roth 3, M. Rivera 1.