N'western girls capture Stellar title
Northwestern's Trista Cunnmingham makes a move on a Parkland Red defender in the Stellar Girls' Basketball Tournament over the weekend. Northwestern Lehigh won the championship by winning all six games it played. NANCY SCHOLZ /Special to THE TIMES NEWS
ALLENTOWN Northwestern Lehigh head coach Chris Deutsch would've been pleased if his girls basketball team made it to the final day of the 2013 Stellar "Catch A Rising Star" Basketball Showcase.
They managed to accomplish that feat, and a whole lot more.
The Tigers won three games on Sunday stretching from 10 a.m. to well beyond 8 p.m. and captured the tournament's championship with a 20-17 victory over Parkland in the final. The Tigers won all six of their games. They beat Lincoln Leadership Academy, Boyertown's varsity, Parkland Gray, Nazareth and Southern Lehigh to reach the championship.
"When I first started here years ago I was happy that we get a win in this tournament," said Deutsch. "And now these last couple of years we've had some nice success."
"I think it's a confidence booster going up against these 4A teams being a smaller Colonial [League] team," said Sabrina Mertz. "I think that will give us a lot of confidence going into the season. But we still have to work on a lot of stuff."
After graduating Colonial League MVP from last season in Sara Jones, as well as fellow senior teammate Kaleen Suter, a number of Tigers managed to somewhat fill those voids and keep the success rolling.
Trista Cunningham, the only Tiger senior at the tournament, had to get off work just to make it to Sunday's slew of games. She had a key part in the Tigers' run, and helped lead a balanced attack in the championship game with five points. She was name to the all tournament team.
"It's a close knit group, (and) they really get along with one another," said Deutsch. "It's a good thing going. Hopefully we can take this confidence and momentum into the season"
"We lost some key players last year, but we have a lot of depth and people that can fill in," said Cunningham. "It feels really good. I knew we were going to be good, but I didn't know we were going to be this good."
Mertz was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. While she had a stellar tournament, which was capped off by a first place finish, even Mertz didn't expect the award.
"I wasn't expecting it, but I'm happy," said Mertz. "Our whole team did it. We played awesome. I couldn't have done it without them, and we couldn't have won it without every person."
Lexi Gawelko was named the sixth man on the tournament team for the Tigers as well.
For a Panther Valley girls team that never participated in a basketball tournament like Stellar before, first-year head coach Brad Hurley was looking to make it past the first two automatic games, and experience some quality competition along the journey.
Panther Valley was able to do that, advancing into play on Saturday afternoon before falling to Bangor.
"The key for me is I want them to get used to playing against good competition," said Hurley. "I think in order to get better that's something you need to do. I think we accomplished that. The girls really enjoyed themselves and they really enjoyed the atmosphere."
Seniors-to-be Madison Blasko and Jess Jacobs, as well as rising sophomore Jamie Mikovich all had solid tournaments for Panther Valley.
"She [Blasko] really does it all for us," said Hurley. "She's all over the place. She runs our offense, and she's a key to our defense.
While the offense is still progressing, Hurley wants his team to be known for its aggressive play and hustle on the defensive end of the court. Judging by the tournament's outcome, the team is certainly on the right path.
"We got to work on our offense, [but] our defense is coming along," said Hurley. "If we can get our offense to be decent I think we can be a really good basketball team come the season."