A few weeks ago, the Northern Lehigh-Palmerton regular season finale looked like it might have a lot riding on the outcome.
But the Bulldogs and Bombers both eliminated any "must win" sceneries associated with the game by clinching berths in the District 11 playoffs prior to their Colonial League showdown Thursday night.
Despite that fact, the contest still had a lot of importance according to both coaches.
"Anytime Northern Lehigh and Palmerton lace them up, it means something," Palmerton coach Don Delich said. "[Northern Lehigh coach] Dave [Oertner] and I talked about it before the game and even though this game didn't have any bearing on league or district playoffs, it meant something to both of us, to all the players, and the people who were here tonight."
Palmerton avenged an earlier loss to the Bulldogs by rallying in the second half for a 43-25 win.
"It's probably the best feeling ever walking off this court, knowing that I played my heart out, and got a win in my last home game," said Bombers senior Kelsey Hay, who finished with a game-high 13 points. "That's all I could have asked for tonight."
It didn't start out well for Hay and the Bombers, however, as Northern Lehigh used a 14-1 run in the second quarter to take a 17-11 lead into halftime.
"Our coach told us we started off too slow in the beginning and we had to be more aggressive before it was too late," Palmerton's Jen Snyder said. "So, we got our act together one last time here. We started picking each other up. We worked as a team and weren't working as individuals."
The Bombers went on a 11-0 run to start the second half. Hay led the run, which put the Bombers up 22-17 with 4:04 left in the third quarter, by scoring five of the points.
Aimee Oertner netted two of her Bulldog-high 10 points with 3:23 left in the period to make it 22-19. But the Bulldogs wouldn't get any closer.
In the fourth quarter, things crumbled quickly for Northern Lehigh. With 7:37 left in the game, coach Oertner received two technicals and was ejected from the game.
The Bombers fed off the intensity of the crowd as they gradually pulled for the decisive victory.
Palmerton's Jade Farquhar hit for five of her 12 points in the frame while Morgan Mummey recorded four of her 10 points.
"Once we got a lead, we tried to spread the court and make Aimee [Oertner] defend out on the perimeter," said Delich. "Once we got Aimee out from underneath the basket, we took it to the rim."
While the Bombers found their offensive rhythm in the second half, Northern Lehigh was 4-for-20 from the floor in the final 16 minutes of play.
"Our kids were doing well in the first half," coach Oertner said. "In the second half, we came out, struggled on the offense and stopped playing defense for the first couple of minutes.
"After that, what can I say, I missed a lot."
Follweiler 0-1-2-1, Hams 1-1-2-3, Bastardi 2-0-0-4, Weil 2-0-0-4, Olewine 1-1-2-3, Tarafas 0-0-0-0, Oertner 5-0-0-10. TOTALS: 11-3-6-25.
Hadinger 0-0-0-0, Rickert 0-0-0-0, Albar 0-0-0-0, Farquhar 2-8-10-12, Mo. Mummey 4-2-3-10, Graver 0-0-0-0, Meinhart 1-0-0-2, Eaton 0-0-0-0, Snyder 2-2-3-6, Hay 4-5-5-13. TOTALS: 13-17-21-43.
No. Lehigh 3 14 4 4 - 25
Palmerton 8 3 15 17 - 43
Three-pointers: NL - none; Palmerton - none.