Northwestern girls basketball head coach Chris Deutsch had taken his team to eight previous Stellar Construction Catch a Rising Star Tournaments.
He knows as well as anyone how tough the competition can be at the annual event, held at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown.
So despite the fact that his team has been playing well this summer, Deutsch's expectations were tempered just a bit heading into the summer season's marquee event.
After their performance at Stellar, the Lady Tigers won't have tempered expectations heading into the winter season. They won their first four games to reach the winners bracket final before falling to eventual Stellar champ Oley Valley Blue and runner up Parkland Red.
"I'm very happy," Deutsch said following a Saturday afternoon win over Pocono Mountain East. "This is the first time in my nine years as head coach that we're making it into Sunday. I'm really proud of them."
In the Stellar boys varsity tournament, state powerhouse Chester beat local favorite Emmaus in the final. Several area boys teams competed in the event. All of them lost their first two games and were eliminated.
In the girls tournament, Northwestern opened with wins over Emmaus, Ridge, Pocono Mountain East and Southern Lehigh. That put the Lady Tigers in the winners bracket final against Oley Blue. A loss to the Lady Lynx followed by a losers bracket loss to Parkland Red spelled the end of Northwestern's tournament.
Deutsch expected his team to play well, especially after solid play at a recent Penn State summer camp and all summer long in the Tamaqua Summer League.
"I knew we have been playing really well all summer," Deutsch said. "I didn't know what to expect from Emmaus. That was a tough opening game. Last year we played them during the (high school) season and they beat us by 30."
One highlight for the Lady Tigers was turning around an early 10-2 deficit against Pocono Mountain East in the winners bracket quarterfinal. By the time the first half was winding down NW had a 23-13 lead that would turn into a 30-16 margin early in the second half.
"The key was the way we kept our composure," Deutsch said. "In years past I don't think we would have come back. We were on the ropes a little bit and we battled back. From 10-2, we really outscored them."
The Tigers won that game 36-24.
In other Stellar girls tournament action, Palmerton lost to Parkland Red to fall into the losers bracket early. The Bombers then beat Ridge before losing to Boyertown. Northern Lehigh girls had a first-round bye then lost to Parkland Red and Emmaus.
Five area boys teams went to the Stellar Tournament. Despite each team going two-and-out, they still got some valuable playing time against quality competition.
"We look at the Cedar Beach League, which Glen (Klein, Stellar Tournament Director) runs, and the Stellar Tournament as a big part of our summer program," said Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski. "We count on that to make us better in the summer."
Pointkowski's squad lost to Susquehanna and Bensalem at the Stellar. Other local teams there included Palmerton (lost to Quakertown and Lancaster Catholic), Lehighton (lost to Emmaus and Catasauqua), Northwestern (lost to Brandywine and Perkiomen Valley) and Northern Lehigh (lost to Trinity and Avon Grove).
A few local teams entered the Stellar junior varsity tournament and all three went two and out. Northwestern lost to Emmaus and Dieruff. Pleasant Valley, which had a first-round bye, lost to Stroudsburg and Notre Dame-Green Pond. And Palmerton lost to Avon Grove and Salisbury.