For the Northwestern Lehigh boys basketball team, spotting teams early game leads has been a recurring problem throughout the season.
And during Friday night's Colonial League matchup against Salisbury (8-5 overall; 5-3 in Colonial League) at Northwestern Lehigh High School, the Tigers (4-10 overall; 2-6 in Colonial League) once again struggled early after the opening tip.
While responding after a sluggish first quarter in which they trailed 18-3 and getting to within three points in the second half, that first quarter deficit proved to be too much of a hurdle to overcome. The Falcons held on in the final minute and escaped with the 48-43 victory.
"This has been redundant for us," said head coach Dan Eddinger. "We did it against Catty and we did it here. We spot teams 15-point leads and then we battle our butts off to get back in the game. And we do a great job, but you're out of energy. We can't spot teams these big leads."
The Tigers, who scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter and trailed 35-32 at that point, had a chance in the final seconds to make it a one possession game once again.
Trailing 45-41, the Tigers regained possession with 41 seconds to play. And it was Josh Williamson - who had six fourth quarter points - who saw an opening around the rim. Unfortunately, his layup attempt was altered just a tad from the Falcon defense and ended up falling short.
The Falcons secured the rebound and preceded to hit two more free throws to make it 47-41 with 17 seconds left, all but icing the game.
"We're proven defensively," said Eddinger. "I've made it very clear up here I want to become a man-to-man basketball team. The kids are working hard at it in practice, and we had two great days of practice heading into tonight's game. And I thought that showed in how we played."
After that rough start in the first eight minutes, the Tigers got to within 12 at halftime. They then outscored the Falcons 14-7 in the third quarter, and were poised at making a legitimate run at handing last season's league champions their fourth conference loss of the season.
The problem is we're struggling to get the ball inside the last few games and a combination of things, which leads to shooting jump shots" said Eddinger. "And what I tell the kids all the time, it's got to start with the defense and that's what started the comeback in the second period was the defense."
Cam Richardson had a team-high 16 points for the Tigers, including 10 in the second half to keep Northwestern within striking distance. David Wagner had 10 and Josh Williamson added eight.
The Tigers will look to end their current five-game losing skid today when they take on Brandywine Heights. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Boyertown Area High School.
Wagner 4-1-2-10, Williamson 2-4-5-8, Schuler 1-0-0-2, T. Richardson 0-0-0-0, Betz 0-1-2-1, Perry 1-0-0-2, C. Richardson 5-3-4-16, Binder 2-0-2-4
Sanchez 3-1-2-8, Cooperman 3-2-2-8, Brown 0-2-1-1, D. Reichenbach 1-1-2-4, Vangeli 0-2-2-2, Aungst 8-0-4-16, Hadian 1-0-0-2, Uhl 3-1-2-7
Northwestern 3 13 14 13 - 43
Salisbury 18 10 7 13 - 48
Three-pointers: NW - C. Richardson 3, Wagner 1; S - Sanchez 1, D. Reichenbach 1.