The Lehighton girls earned every bit of their 43-38 victory over Northern Lehigh Thursday night in the Lady Indian Holiday Classic.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Lehighton had a 38-28 lead over the Bulldogs. Both teams exchanged baskets to open the quarter.
The Bulldogs went on a run early in the quarter. Kelsey Follweiler hit a three-pointer with 5:22 left to play, which sparked a 9-0 spurt. The Indians clung to a three-point lead with 3:41 left to play, 40-37.
The Indians had the ball and a 42-37 lead with 1:09 left in the game, but turned it over on a 10-second violation. The Bulldogs could not capitalize. Lehighton hit one more foul shot and put the game away.
"We played well, but we made defensive mistakes which got Northern Lehigh back in the game," Lehighton head coach Christopher Kasian said.
The Indians persevered through a scoring drought in the final quarter which lasted almost five minutes. Their defense was strong enough throughout the game to get them through it.
Northern Lehigh was aggressive on both sides of the ball for the entire game. It got to the foul line much more than Lehighton, having 10 total free throw attempts. The Bulldogs came out of the gate running a full-court press defense and used through much of the game. Against an inexperienced team it led to many Indian turnovers.
At halftime the Indians had just a four-point lead, 23-19.
Emily Shelly contributed with seven first-half points. Lehighton only has two seniors (Shelly and Kasaundra Barclay), so it was interesting to see how leadership factored into this tournament game. The two seniors led by example, and it greatly affected their teammates. Shelly scored a game-high 14 points. Barclay had four points while playing through injury.
"These girls set the tone and are team-first players," said Kasian.
Northern Lehigh is also very young with only one senior on the team. However, leading by example was sophomore Emily Bevans. She was one of five Bulldogs to score in the game. She had five points on the night, but more importantly, had multiple clutch rebounds (most of them offensive rebounds) which created many second chance opportunities for the Bulldogs.
"She is only going to grow into an outstanding post player," said Northern Lehigh head coach Anthony Thomas. Thomas said that inexperience is a factor, especially on defense. He said his team works hard every time it enters the gym.
"We are getting better every game," Thomas said. "We are battling some health issues and injuries, but I am proud of the way they fought until the end tonight."
The Indians only got to the foul line twice in the game.
"We need to learn how to create our own shots," said Kasian. "Young teams struggle in creating their own shots. We are working hard and we are young."
Both coaches concluded inexperience leads to mistakes, especially defensively. Lehighton had a balanced attack on offense, having eight players who scored points.
"I'm really excited for the girls," said Kasian. "They practice hard and I am blessed to be their coach."
The Indians deserved every bit of this victory. They are looking forward to their matchup tonight with Palmerton in the championship of the annual tournament. They improvd to 2-5 on the season.
Follweiler 3-0-0-9, Weil 1-3-4-5, Stauffer 0-0-0-0, Olewine 5-2-2-12, Tarafas 0-0-0-0, Bevans 2-1-2-5, Harlan 2-0-0-7. TOTALS: 13-6-8-38
Shelly 6-0-3-14, Barclay 2-0-0-4, Fital 2-0-0-6, Yurasits 2-0-0-4, Blasiak 0-0-0-0, Durishin 1-0-0-2, Smith 0-0-0-0, Thompson 4-1-3-9, Rehrig 1-0-0-2, Cordova 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 19-1-6-43.
No. Lehigh 10 9 9 10 - 38
Lehighton 11 12 15 5 - 43
Three-Pointers: Northern Lehigh - Harlan 1, Follweiler 1; Lehighton - Fital 2, Shelly 2.