It was exactly the kind of game that plagued Northwestern last year. But this time it went the other way.
Pen Argyl climbed back from an early deficit and took its first lead in the third quarter. The Tigers responded, battling through a tight fourth quarter and sealing the 52-48 win in the final minute.
"When they kept coming back it was like a flashback to last year," said Tigers senior guard David Wagner. "We gave up games in the second half last year. This year we're a totally different team."
The Knights had the ball with just over a minute to play and the game tied at 45. Pressure from Ty Richardson and Josh Williamson forced a Pen Argyl turnover that led to the Tigers taking the lead for good.
Cam Richardson drove for a layup with 46 seconds to give the Tigers a 47-45 lead. he went to the foul line 15 seconds later and made the first of two. Teammate Collin Breidinger rebounded the missed second free throw, drew a foul and hit two foul shots to give his team a 50-45 lead.
The Knights hit a three-pointer to close the margin to two points with 15 seconds left. They sent Wagner to the line with nine seconds to play and he hit both, finishing off a team-high 12-point effort.
"This team fought back," said Northwestern head coach Dan Eddinger. "It's really nice to get a win, not for myself, but for the boys. I'm happy for them. I'm proud of the way they finished the game. I'm proud of the fact that they hit free throws."
Northwestern didn't miss a foul shot through three quarters, going 11 for 11. They finished the game 20 for 26. Pen Argyl, on the other hand, went 13 for 22 at the line.
"The difference was the free throws," said Pen Argyl head coach Al Bount. "That hurt us. Other than that it was an even ball game. It was a hard-fought basketball game between two teams and they did enough to win."
Northwestern pulled out to a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Knights closed within one early in the second period, but fell behind again and went to halftime down 24-17.
The Tigers turned the ball over eight times in the first five minutes of the second half as Pen Argyl cut the lead down to 30-29 with 3:12 left in the third quarter and went up by one with a second left before the fourth.
The final stanza saw the Knights make one of seven free throws. Tigers, who were in some foul trouble as Binder, Josh Williamson and Cam Richardson finished the game with four fouls each, went back ahead on a Williamson three-pointer early in the fourth and never trailed the rest of the way.
"One of the things that's nice about this year's team is they don't give up," said Eddinger. "Last year in the third quarter we would have let this game go downhill and gotten blown out."
Muller 1-2-3-5, Gillette 1-3-4-5, Houck 0-0-0-0, Hoffman 2-2-5-6, Monastero 1-2-3-5, Oyer 6-1-3-16, Wentzell 0-0-0-0, Bender 3-3-4-11. TOTALS: 14-13-22-48.
Wagner 3-4-4-12, Williamson 2-1-2-6, T. Richardson 1-6-6-9, Breidinger 1-2-2-4, Perry 2-0-1-4, C. Richardson 4-2-3-10, Binder 1-5-8-7. TOTALS: 14-20-26-52.
Pen Argyl 6 11 19 12 – 48
Northwestern 9 15 10 18 – 52
Three-pointers: Pen Argyl – Oyer 3, Bender 2, Muller 1, Monastero 1; Northwestern – Wagner 2, Williamson 1, T. Richardson 1.