CATASAUQUA - It's tough to beat a team three times in the season.
The Bangor Slaters were up to the task on Wednesday night when they faced the Northern Lehigh Bulldogs in the first of two Colonial League boys semifinals at the Catasauqua High gym.
The Bulldogs, who lost three league games this season and two of them were to the Slaters.
This time, the Slaters (19-4) scored the first 11 points and bent a little, but didn't break in beating the Bulldogs by a 58-48 score.
Bangor will meet Salisbury, a 68-46 winner over Notre Dame of Green Pond in the other semi, on Friday night at Freedom for the title.
"I don't know what it is with this group, but in big games we start slow," said Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller. "Against good teams you just can't do that. It leaves too much of a hill to climb and that's happened in three of our four losses."
The quick start by Bangor took Northern Lehigh out of its game plan early as the Bulldogs (19-4) wanted to apply some full court pressure after a score.
It wasn't until Josh Pristash came off the bench to score on a layup with 2:53 left in the first quarter that Northern Lehigh scored its first points.
"Our inability to score early certainly hurt," lamented Miller. "Now we have to stay man-to-man, we can't get into our zone, we can't get into our press. There is a lot of things we couldn't do. The first three minutes of the game took us out of those things we could possibly try."
The Slaters literally shot the lights out early going 6-for-8 from the floor in the first quarter to build a 13-7 lead. They continued to drain baskets in the second stanza making 6-of-9 and despite turning the ball over 10 times in the first half (23 in the game), took a 28-16 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The Bulldogs (managed to pull within seven with 4:18 left in the third quarter, but managed the Slaters managed to match them with eight points to take a 36-24 advantage entering the final eight minutes.
Pristash came up big and scored a team-high 14 points, with nine coming during a fourth quarter flurry where the Bulldogs pulled within six a couple of times, but didn't get any closer.
"Josh can shoot it and he did a nice job," said Miller. We might have forced a shjot here and there, but he was feeling it and gave us good minutes and scoring off the bench which we needed."
Northern Lehigh was forced to foul down the stretch. Kerry Reider made 5-of-7 and Alex Colton sank all six attempts he took from the charity stripe. Colton finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds before he fouled out late in the game.
Justin Ringland backed Colton up with 12 and Reider added 11.
"We like to attack the basket and we did that," said Bangor head coach Bron Holland. "We have to cut down on our turnovers, though, to have a chance to win the championship."
The good thing is that the Bulldogs get a little break before they enter the six-team 3A bracket for the District 11 playoffs.
"It hurts now and will hurt a little bit because we really wanted this bad and thought we could get it," added Miller. "The nice thing is it isn't our last game. We have at least two more (District 11 sends three teams out to inter-district play) and if we win one of those we keep playing."
George 1-0-0-3, DiBilio 1-3-3-6, J. Pristash 6-0-0-14, Glose 3-0-0-7, Eden 1-0-0-2, Landsberger 1-1-3-3, Johnson 2-1-5-5, Pierce 3-2-2-8. TOTALS: 18-7-13-48.
Freeman 0-0-0-0, S. Reider 0-0-0-0, Altemose 3-0-1-6, Jer. Ringland 0-0-0-0, K. Reider 2-7-9-11, Hartzell 2-0-0-5, Pysher 1-0-0-2, Just. Ringland 5-2-5-12, Colton 6-8-8-22. TOTALS: 16-17-23-58.
No. Lehigh 7 9 8 24 - 48
Bangor 13 15 8 22 - 58
Three-pointers: B - Colton 2, Hartzell 1; NL - J. Pristash 2, George 1, DiBilio 1, Glose 1.