With a combined win total of five games between Northwestern and Palmerton coming in to Friday night's Colonial League boys' basketball contest, neither team was fighting for a playoff berth.
Judging by the physicality of play though, no one alerted the Tigers or Blue Bombers about that.
Northwestern earned a hard-fought victory over Palmerton, 51-46.
"It's amazing when they think they can win a game, how much more energy they play with," said Tiger coach Dan Eddinger about his squad. "I said to them that I wish they would believe that every game."
That tenacity really showed on the defensive end forcing the Bombers to turn the ball over 25 total times in the contest. Six of those turnovers occurred in the first quarter which allowed the Tigers to lead 12-10 after the first eight minutes of play.
The turnovers continued for Palmerton (1-17, 0-14) in the second quarter, but the Bombers stayed close and tied the score at 19 thanks to a basket by sophomore Spencer Hay (nine points, eight rebounds) with 2:53 left in the first half. The Tigers pulled away late by means of a 7-0 scoring run that lasted the final 1:33 of the half and made it 29-21, taking the lead and the momentum into the locker room.
That wave carried over and pushed the lead to 13 after a layup by Northwestern senior Cam Richardson (six points, one rebound) with 5:51 left in the third, but it didn't last very long.
Palmerton thrusted itself back in to this ball game by ending the third frame with a 10-0 scoring run in the last 3:40. Leading that march was freshman Mike Stasko who scored six in the run and finished with 15 points, leading all Blue Bombers.
That scoring frenzy knotted the game at 39 heading in to the fourth and according to Bomber coach, Leigh Keenan, that was the perfect spot to be.
"We had them on their heels," the first-year coach said. "I felt confident going in to the fourth. We have a hard time finishing games in the mental aspect of it and that is where it hurts us."
Despite opening the quarter with three straight turnovers, the Bombers were down only three until a put-back basket by Tiger senior Kevin Markovitch made it 46-41 in favor of Northwestern with 4:50 left.
Markovitch registered a career high in points with 15, which led all Tigers, and also finished with seven rebounds.
"I think Kevin Markovitch did a very nice job on the boards tonight," Eddinger admitted. "He didn't play against them the first time, so they didn't get to see him."
A dry spell for the Tigers (5-14 overall, 2-12 CL) allowed the Bombers to get to within two with just under three minutes left to play, but Markovitch contributed three of the Tigers' final five points in the last 90 seconds to seal the victory, sweeping the season series for Northwester
The Tigers took the JV game as well, 54-46.
Hay 4-1-3-9, Achterman 1-2-2-4, Svetik 0-0-0-0, Lesher 2-0-0-4, Weber 1-0-0-2, Frey 0-2-3-2, Suto 0-0-0-0, Quinn 5-1-3-11, Stasko 6-1-2-15. Totals: 19-7-13-46
Archer 0-0-0-0, Williamson 2-1-2-6, Mengel 3-0-0-9, Jones 2-0-0-4, Breininger 2-0-0-4, Breidinger 0-3-4-3, Schwartz 1-2-4-4, Richardson 1-4-6-6, Markovitch 7-1-4-15. Totals: 18-11-20-51
Palmerton 10 11 18 7 -46
Northwestern 12 17 10 12 -51
Three-Pointers: P- Stasko 1; NW- Williamson 1, Mengel 3.