Northwestern get decision
mike feifel/times news Northwestern's Trista Cunningham looks for an open teammate as Morgan McCollian of Bangor defends.
Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch told his team the game would be like a mixed martial arts fight.
The Tigers landed some blows early in the second half, but couldn't wrap the Slaters in a submission hold until hitting late foul shots sealed a 42-36 win.
"We told our girls this was going to be like a UFC fight," said Deutsch. "We're going to be locked in with them mono a mono. Survival of the fittest. We told them it was going to be a physical game. The last one standing was going to win it."
The two undefeated teams came into the match up at 3-0 in the Colonial League and 5-0 overall.
Each team was on top at times in the first half, but neither could hold its opponent down for long.
Northwestern stayed on its feet after a 1-for-9 start in which it fell behind 6-2. The Tigers went on the attack late in the first quarter. A Sarah Segan three-point play ended a 9-0 run and gave the hosts a 13-8 lead after one quarter.
Bangor countered in the second quarter, using a 10-2 run to take a 20-15 lead with 3:45 left in the first half.
Northwestern freshman Erika Thomas hit the first of two three-pointers to start a run for her team. Sara Jones hit a jump shot with 1:56 left in the second quarter that put her team ahead 24-22.
While the Slaters took their best shots in the second half, Northwestern never gave up its lead the rest of the way.
The Tigers put the Slaters on the ropes with tenacious defense in the second half.
"Our defense won the game," said Deutsch. "We were pressuring them all over the court. We made them work for everything they got."
The Tigers got balanced scoring. Jones had a team-high 10 points along with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Thomas, Segan and Kaleen Suter scored eight points each.
The Tigers other two key players in the game, Sabrina Mertz (six points) and Trista Cunningham (two points, seven rebounds) contributed in other ways.
Mertz had four assists and four steals, but she forced a few Bangor turnovers that did not go on the stat sheet as steals.
"She is our heart and soul on defense," said Jones. "She's everywhere, always disrupting everything."
Cunningham, listed at 5-foot-8, fronted 6-foot Bangor center Morgan McCollian, who scored a game-high 14 points, but worked for every one of her nine shots.
"Cunningham was an unsung player for us tonight," said Deutsch. "McCollian is one of the best big girls in the area and I thought Trista did a good job battling her all night long."
Northwestern pushed its lead as high as eight points, which came after Thomas' second three-pointer of the game and gave the Tigers a 33-25 lead with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
"That freshman hit two threes and that's six points right there," said Bangor head coach Bill Bisci. "And we lost by six. They were big shots."
Thomas, who played on the freshman team last year, has been coming off the bench all season and getting more and more comfortable with varsity basketball.
"I've been really looking forward to getting to that point and letting all my nerves go and just hitting a shot," she said.
"She handles the pressure so well," Jones said of Thomas. "I'm so proud of here. She's fearless. She adds so much to this team. She's a great sixth man to have."
Bangor, the defending District 11 Class AAAA champ, wasn't about to tap out.
The Slaters cut the lead to three points when McCollian hit one of two foul shots with 3:01 left in the game, but the Tigers made five of six free throws in the final 1:10 to seal the win.
Northwestern (6-0, 4-0) pulls a game ahead of Bangor (5-1, 3-1) in the North Division. The teams meet for a rematch Feb. 5 at Bangor.
Vass 0-0-0-0, Renna 2-0-0-4, Domenech 0-0-0-0, McNew 0-0-0-0, Livingston 0-0-0-0, Baker 2-0-0-4, Zongolo 4-2-2-10, Colton 1-0-0-2, Bisci 0-2-2-2, Kallus 0-0-0-0, McCollian 5-4-8-14. TOTALS: 14-8-12-36.
Mertz 2-2-2-6, Landrigan 0-0-0-0, Jones 4-2-2-10, Suter 3-2-2-8, Segan 3-2-3-8, Koenig 0-0-0-0, Thomas 2-2-2-8, Cunningham 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 15-10-11-42.
Bangor 8 14 7 7 - 36
Northwestern 13 11 11 7 - 42
Three-pointers: Bangor - none; Northwestern - Thomas 2.