Bulldogs pull away from Palmerton in second half
ron gower/times news Northern Lehigh's Lucas Pierce goes to the floor for a loose ball as Palmerton's Matt Leaver (center) and Cody Geist (right) move in.
Northern Lehigh knows what it wants to do and needs to do.
But for the first half against rival Palmerton, it didn't seem that interested in doing it.
After halftime, however, the Bulldogs got down to business. They pumped the ball inside to their twin towers Caleb Johnson and Lucas Pierce and the two big men carried the host club to a 59-37 Colonial League victory in both team's regular season finale.
"We wanted to do that the whole game," said Nolehi head coach Jeff Miller, whose club only led 21-20 at the break. "For some reason early in the game we have periods where it's tough getting them going. I haven't put my finger on it yet, but hopefully we can put the finger on it before (the playoffs).
"We came out in the second half and they played with fire. We reiterated to them to get the ball inside. We work on it everyday and we talk about it all the time. Sometimes it just takes some louder vocabulary to get them to realize it. But that's what we need to do, get our bigs involved."
The Bombers' Kyle Ruch opened the third quarter with a three-pointer to give the visitors a lead, but Johnson and Pierce both contributed three inside buckets, including one each off an offensive rebound, to key an 18-6 run that put Nolehi (19-3; 13-3) in command.
Pierce added two more buckets in the paint to start the final frame and the advantage swelled to 47-31.
"It was a tale of two different games," said Palmerton mentor Mick Stefanek, whose team finished 3-19 overall and 1-15 in the CL. "In the first half we played well at both ends of the floor, we contained them on the glass with one shot and done. We hit some big shots and were only down by one.
"But then we give up 22 points in the third quarter. They exposed our Achilles' heel. They went inside. They dribble penetrated against our zone and they just killed us on the boards."
The Bulldogs' Johnson collected 15 rebounds, to go along with his 13 points. Pierce, meanwhile, finished with eight boards and led all scorers with 16 points.
Ruch topped the Bombers with 14 points, and hit a pair of treys in the opening period to help his team grab a 14-12 lead.
"They played hard," said Miller of his team's opponent. "They have a three-win season and came in here and played very hard. That's a credit to the coaching staff and the kids.
"We played a great first half," said Stefanek. "We were playing for some respectability and I think we gave Northern Lehigh our best shot in that first half. But they're a good basketball team and they came out and took it to us inside with their big guys. This one just got away quickly in the third quarter and we could never recover. Our kids battled. I was proud of the effort."
While Palmerton concluded its season, the Bulldogs will return to action next week in the league playoffs. They will probably face Bangor in the semifinals.
"Every game now is a tough game," said Miller, whose club shot 7-of-24 in the first half but went 16-of-29 in the second. "We cannot afford to have slow starts from now on. It's playoff time and it's one and done."
In the JV game, Northern Lehigh claimed a 49-33 win. Darien Middaugh had 13 points for the Bulldogs while Shawn Shupp added 11, For Palmerton, Logan Lesher tallied eight points.
Horvath 1-0-0-2, Svetik 1-0-2-3, Snyder 2-0-0-5, Leaver 0-7-8-7, Ruch 5-0-0-14, Lesher 0-1-2-1, Leon 0-1-2-1, Geist 2-0-0-4, Luers 0-0-0-0, Quinn 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 11-9-14-37.
George 2-0-0-5, Egan 0-0-0-0, Shupp 0-0-0-0, Dibilio 1-0-0-2, J. Pristash 2-0-0-6, Glose 3-2-2-8, Davis 0-0-0-0, Eden 2-3-4-7, Hofmann 0-0-0-0, Middaugh 1-0-0-2, Landsberger 0-0-0-0, Johnson 6-1-2-13, Pierce 6-4-5-16. TOTALS: 23-10-13-59.
Palmerton 14 6 11 6 - 37
No. Lehigh 12 9 22 16 - 59
Three-pointers: Palmerton - Ruch 4, Svetik 1, Snyder 1; No. Lehigh - Pristash 2, George 1.