Central's 'D' was the key
STEVE SHINKO/TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh's Christina Bastardi dribbles around Central Catholic's Taylor Maldonado.
EASTON - When you play a program that has been dominant for so long like Allentown Central Catholic's girls has been, you have to play a near perfect game to have a shot at a win.
Northern Lehigh found that out Saturday afternoon in the District 11 Class 3A championship against the Vikettes at Easton Middle School.
Central's defense was smothering as the Lady Bulldogs didn't score double figures in any of the four quarters.
Central's offense was run to perfection, with talented point guard Taylor Maldonado at the controls.
That's why it was no surprise that the Vikettes rolled to a 42-24 victory for their 11th straight district title. Talk about domination.
"Their defense was the difference," said Northern Lehigh head coach Dave Oertner. "I think we did a decent job on them defensively for the most part until toward the end. With their defense, we just couldn't run what we wanted to run, plain and simple. They just played great defense on us."
The Bulldogs managed to get off just 28 shots and made good on 10 of them. They also shot just four free throws, making two of them. The Vikettes, on the other hand, shot 13-for-33 from the field and went to the line far more than the Bulldogs, converting 14-of-19.
The Vikettes also took advantage of a 13-6 edge on the boards in the first half that helped them hold a 20-13 edge at the half.
"We talked about that in the locker room," said Oertner. "If we hadn't given them second chances in the first half we would have been right there. Playing a zone, which we had to do because they're so quick, we couldn't get in real good rebounding position.
good rebounding position.
"I knew from the start that would be a problem playing a zone. I like playing man because you can rebound better, but in a zone I knew that would be tough for us to get around from keeping that from happening."
Central's defense and hustle in the third quarter actually proved to be the difference. All the Bulldogs could muster was two free throws by Christine Bastardi and a field goal by Lauren Oertner in the eight-minute stretch.
"This was the best defense we faced all year," Oertner said of the Vikettes, who have now won 13 straight games. "They have enough size to contend with us inside and they're just quicker than us. They're just too quick.
"I knew from the start, especially with Maldonado out front, we tried to play man-to-man and she drove right down the middle on us three straight times. That was the end of our man-to-man defense for the night.
"Then defensively, they're in your face from the start. That's not our strength, handling the ball. I knew it wasn't a real good matchup for us outside at the guard position. I knew it would be tough for us to win."
Foul trouble didn't help either. Aimee Oertner picked up her third foul with 2:40 left in the first half and Lauren Oertner eventually fouled out.
"Foul trouble didn't help us either. Aimee couldn't play defense. It hurt our defense a lot. It hurts your defense tremendously when your best player can't play defense. She can't block a shot. All of a sudden they go inside and all she could do is stand there and they got layup after layup.
"I don't mind a game in the 20's like we had. The trouble was trying to hold them in the 20's and I knew that wouldn't be easy. They didn't get many fast break points on us, but we didn't get any fast break points. Every point we got we earned tonight."
Now the Bulldogs (24-2) move on to the state playoffs and will travel to take on District 4 champion Shikellamy on Saturday at Shamokin High School at 4:30 p.m.
"They're a good team, but I think we can play with them," said Oertner about his team's next challenge. "We just have to come out and play well."