Northwestern girls' basketball coach Chris Deutsch readily admits that he has one of the deepest teams he has ever coached.

That depth fits perfect into the Tigers' head coach's game plan of running an up tempo type of game.

The 10th-year Tigers' mentor said the bench is "one of the critical factors" in helping his team roll through opponent after opponent this season.

"One girl down. One girl in foul trouble. One sick. Whatever, the next girl comes in and gets the job done," Deutsch said. "Having the type of depth we have makes a big difference in our game plan."

The Tigers currently have their claws on an unblemished record, 19-0 overall and 13-0 in the Colonial League. That record couldn't have been attained without huge contributions from the bench.

It has also made the job a lot easier for Sara Jones, Kaleen Suter, Sarah Segan, Sabrina Mertz and Trista Cunningham the Tigers' usual starting five. That's because when foul trouble hits or a player has been forced to miss a game because of injury or illness, Deutsch and his coaching staff have lots of options.

Whether it's Megan Landrigan, Erika Thomas, Lauren Anderson, Mikaela Keonig, Erynn Day, Kylee Bennett, Cheyenne Shupp or Lexi Gawelko, Deutsch can rely on someone to get the job done.

"Our motto is, 'Next girl up,'" Deutsch said. "I mean you have someone injured it's the next girl up. No one feels sorry for you. No one's going to say, 'Northwestern's missing some players so let's take it easy on them.'

"We're going to have the next girl up come in there and produce. We expect a girl to come off the bench and do a good job.

"And, we're very fortunate to have the talent that we have. The bench has been big for us this year."

In the middle of January, Deutsch asked Anderson to start a few games to replace Cunningham, who suffered a high ankle sprain. Anderson answered and helped get the job done.

Last Friday, the Tigers were without the presence of two starters Cunningham and Sarah Segan, who sustained a knee injury.

It may have struck anyone as a tough situation, but Deutsch watched his Tigers overcome it and post a victory against a very good Notre Dame of Green Pond team.

All it took was one thing, according to Deutsch.

"When you lose two starters for certain games, you're thinking that's going to be tough, really tough," Deutsch said. "I think the thing with this team is the chemistry. They're a close knit group, who really like one another. Those girls came in and did their job.

"In the 10 years that I have been with Northwestern, this group is as close with one another as any group I've had."

They have also produced.

"Up and down the lineup, we have received good production," said Deutsch. "That's hard to do when you're sitting on the bench for a time and then you're asked come in there ... maybe with four minutes left in the game, or come in there for a minute and a half, 30-seconds, or whatever, ... and for them to do that, it's really a credit to those girls because that's not an easy thing to do."

*****

CREAM OF THE CROP

Times News area team Weathelry (10-6) and Nativity (10-9) are the only two teams remaining in Division 3 of the Schuylkill League that have not qualified for the postseason.

The other teams in Division 3, Marian (15-5), Mahanoy (14-3), and Shenandoah Valley (13-6) have all punched their ticket to the District 11 A playoffs.

Both Nativity and Weatherly need one more win to qualify, but it won't be easy for either squad.

Weatherly still has to faceoff with Mahanoy, Shenandoah, Marian, Nativity and Moravian Academy. All foes that are good basketball teams. The Wreckers only definite "W" is their season finale with Northumberland Christian, who they beat by 42 points earlier in the season. So, it looks like the Wreckers will have to steal a win from one of their other opponents if they want to head to the postseason...

*****

POSTSEASON DRYSPELL ENDED

It has been awhile since the Panther Valley girls and Tamaqua boys basketball squads have entered the postseason..but finally they've both returned.

The Raiders (11-7) and Lady Panthers (11-8) will both be back in the District 11 playoffs after a long drought.

Panther Valley hasn't qualified for districts since 2003 and Tamaqua since 2004.

In addition to Tamaqua, three other TN boys teams have qualified for districts in Marian, Northern Lehigh, and Pleasant Valley.

On the girls side Northwestern, Pleasant Valley, Tamaqua, Marian, and Palmerton will all be going to the postseason.