CATASAUQUA – Playing in a gym full of bad memories … Not a problem.
Trailing after three quarters … Doesn't matter.
Another close game ... No sweat.
Reaching your first-ever Colonial League title game … Priceless.
Wednesday night, the Northern Lehigh girls managed to overcome the court, the deficit, and the nailbiter to pull away for a 37-28 victory over Bangor in the nightcap of a Colonial League semifinal doubleheader.
The Bulldogs will meet Southern Lehigh on Friday at 6 p.m. at Bethlehem Liberty for the league championship.
"Our girls kept their composure when we were behind heading into the fourth quarter and then played very intelligently once we got the lead," said Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner. "We have a smart, veteran team with a lot of experience and we played like that tonight.
"Honestly, that's how we should play and how I expect us to play. Everyone on the court for us has been starting for two, three or even four years. That can be a huge advantage in close games."
With its offense struggling and Bangor leading 24-23 heading into the final quarter, Northern Lehigh turned to its defense. The Bulldogs held Bangor scoreless for over six minutes at the start of the final period.
While the Slaters were missing their first five shots from the floor, two free throw attempts and committing two turnovers, Northern Lehigh used free throws from Lauren Oertner and Sonya Josephson and a pair of layups from Aimee Oertner to build a 30-24 lead.
"You need to make some shots in this type of game and we just didn't do that," said Bangor coach Dale Godshalk. "Northern Lehigh's defense had something to do with that.
"Their size dictates some of things you can offensively. They blocked some shots and they changed some shots. But I still thought we got enough good looks. We just didn't make them tonight."
Despite the fact that Bangor had a quickness edge at most positions on the court, the Bulldogs did a good job of limiting penetration.
"Bangor scored over 40 points against us in both our previous games this year, but tonight I thought we defended with more intensity," said Oertner. "We really did a nice job of keeping them on the perimeter and not letting them drive the ball to the basket.
"We stayed in good position on the ball handlers and played intelligent defense off the ball. I think we had them a little frustrated because they didn't know how to attack us."
With a 30-26 lead late in the game, the Bulldogs spread the court and forced Bangor to foul. They ended up scoring their final seven points on free throws and finished the fourth quarter 10-for-13 at the line.
"We're a pretty good foul shooting team so I'm confident in those late game situations," said Oertner, whose team has played 10 games this season decided by 10 points or less. "We like our chances if teams are forced to foul us and play catch up."
Aimee Oertner finished with 15 points and eight rebounds to lead Northern Lehigh in both categories. Josephson added 12 points and six boards.
After losing in the CL semifinals at Catasauqua each of the last two seasons, the Bulldogs were finally able to walk away with a victory.
"We have never shot the ball well in this gym," said Oertner. "Not in our playoff games here, not when we played Catasauqua down here in the regular season, not ever.
"We struggled again offensively tonight. It was just nice to do other things well enough to get the win."
In other words, it might not have been a work of art, but it definitely was priceless.
Kuchar 0-0-0-0, Hopkins 1-0-0-2, Watts 0-0-0-0, Dentith 0-0-0-0, Bisci 2-0-0-4, Schiavone 4-1-6-12, Benton1-0-0-2, McCollian 3-2-4-8. TOTALS: 11-3-10-28.
Bastardi 1-4-4-6, L. Oertner 0-1-2-1, Josephson 5-2-3-12, A. Oertner 6-3-5-15, Seiler 1-1-2-3. TOTALS: 13-11-16-37.
Bangor 7 6 11 4 - 28
No. Lehigh 10 8 5 14 - 37
Three-pointers: Bangor – Schiavone 3. No. Lehigh – None.