Northern Lehigh almost waited too long to emerge from their comfort "zone," Saturday night.
The Bulldogs kept a tight zone defense employed until the very end of their game against Jim Thorpe. It wasn't until they erupted into a full-court press in the final two minutes that they were able to escape with a 43-41 non-league boys' basketball win.
For most of the game, the Olympians (4-6) held the lead against the highly touted Northern Lehigh squad. Except for the end of the game, the Dawgs led only once, by one point late in the first quarter.
With only two minutes left in the final quarter, Jim Thorpe was in command, 41-36. Finally, after playing zone defense all night, the Blue-and-White abandoned it in furious fashion.
The Bulldogs (7-1) pasted seven unanswered points on the board in the last two minutes to win the game.
"We didn't know we could match up (to JT) with the man-to-man," said Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller in explaining why he had his players remain in a defensive hive for most of the night.
Boy, didthey sting when they were released! "The kids really gutted it out," he said.
In that fourth quarter, with the five point deficit, Darian Middaugh took his only shot of the night, a front jumper, to bring the Bulldogs to within three. Devin Glose made a steal and Lucas Pierce followed it with a offensive rebound and inside jumper to make it a one-point difference.
All-around ace Jordan Waylen then made a steal and passed it to Glose, who followed through with a quick basket that gave the Lehigh squad a lead for the first time in the second half with just 42-seconds to play.
Deliberate fouls were Jim Thorpe's only chance to get another chance. Whalen made one of three free throw attempts he got in the final 19 seconds to seal the victory.
Waylen, the seasonal leader in scoring for the Bulldogs,had a slow start, netting just one field goal in eight tries in the fist half. Hewas stilla dangerous force, scoring 15 points includinga trio of three-pointers and committing five steals.
Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll said he wasn't totally disappointed with the outcome.
"We finally played like I knowwe can play," he said. "They made a great effort. They were banging on the boards. They were playing for loose balls. We played like we want to make the playoffs."
"I give Northern Lehigh credit, they had critical steals when they had their backs to the wall.This was a tough one we just let slip away."
The Bulldogs won the JV game, 58-48.
Dibilio 0-0-0-0, Glose 2-1-2-5, Waylen 5-1-3-14, Malaska 2-0-0-4, Rankin 1-2-4-4, Middaugh 1-0-0-2, Johnson 2-2-3-6, Pierce 3-2-2-8. Totals: 16-8-14-43.
DiBonifazio 2-0-0-5, Prontnicki 1-0-0-2, Ciavarella 6-0-0-13, Moore 0-0-0-0, McGill 0-0-2-0, Otto 1-0-0-2, Clark 7-0-0-14, Johnson 2-0-0-5. Totals:19-0-2-41.
No. Lehigh 8 6 12 17 - 43
Jim Thorpe 9 7 15 10 - 41
Three pointers: NL - Waylen 3; Jim Thorpe - DiBonifazo 1, Ciavarella 1, Johnson 1.