Teams don't go 20-0 without surviving some scares.
Palmerton gave Northwestern as good a test as any team has this season Friday night in New Tripoli. The Tigers came out unscathed, securing a 52-47 win in the game's final two minutes.
"We told our girls this is going to be a tight game," said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. "This is good for us. Everybody wants to knock us off. Give Palmerton credit. They did a lot of things well. We were fortunate."
The teams exchanged leads 17 times in the game and neither ever led by more than four.
The Bombers led 40-37 after a Morgan Mummey jump shot with 4:10 left in the game, but Northwestern rallied from there.
Two baskets by Trista Cunningham sparked a 6-2run and put the Tigers ahead by one, 43-42.
Jade Farquhar responded with a Bombers basket, giving her team its last lead, 44-43 with 2:07 left.
Sabrina Mertz put Northwestern (20-0 overall, 14-0 Colonial League) ahead for good with two foul shots. Erika Thomas came up with a steal on Palmerton's next possession and earned a trip to the foul line. The freshman hit both, putting her team ahead 47-44 with 1:14 left.
After the Bombers missed a pair of free throws, Megan Landrigan hit the shot that all but sealed the win, a layup with 42 second left that gave Northwestern a five-point lead.
"They were overplaying us because we were stalling and [Landrigan] slipped in," said Northwestern's Sara Jones, who had the assist on the play. "That was a big basket. Then Mertz stepped up and hit her foul shots. Under pressure we did well. "
Mertz hit a couple more foul shots to make it a seven-point lead. An Abby Remier three-pointer with five seconds left got the Bombers within four.
The Tigers were 10 for 22 at the foul line through three quarters. They made nine of 10 in the fourth quarter. Mertz went 6 for 6 in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points in the game.
The Bombers (11-8, 6-8), which held a four-point lead in the first half, then battled back from a four-point deficit in the third quarter, came close to pulling off what could have been the season's biggest upset.
"I don't want to be content being close against a really good team," said Palmerton head coach Don Delich. "I wanted to win tonight. The girls wanted to win. We didn't come here to play them close. We gave it our best shot and we got beat by a truly great team. I'm proud of the girls' effort."
Jones scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds. Cunnigham added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bombers were led by Emilie Meinhar's 13 points. Jade Farquhar had 11.
The Tigers need to win one of their last two games to clinch the Colonial League's top seed. They were happy to survive the test they got from Palmerton Friday night.
"As the season goes on," said Jones, "there's a handful of games that we've won in the fourth quarter. We're getting pretty good at learning how to play under that pressure.
"We're not going to go into leagues and districts and beat people by 30. The more experience with these types of games the better."
Krupa 0-0-2-0, Ma. Mummey 4-0-0-9, Farquhar 5-0-0-11, Mo. Mummey 1-0-0-2, Tracy 4-1-2-9, Meinhart 6-1-4-13, Solt 0-0-0-0, Reimer 1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 21-2-8-47.
Mertz 1-8-9-11, Landrigan 3-0-1-6, Jones 6-4-8-16, Suter 2-2-4-6, Bennett 0-0-0-0, Thomas 0-2-4-2, Cunningham 4-2-4-10, Anderson 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 16-19-32-52.
Palmerton 12 11 9 15 – 47
Northwestern 10 14 9 19 – 52
Three-pointers: P – M. Mummey 1, Farquhar 1, Reimer 1; NW – Mertz 1.