Tigers hope to end SL run
NANCY SCHOLZ/special to the TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Sabrina Mertz drives to the basket during a game earlier this season.
The Southern Lehigh Spartans are playing for the Colonial League girls' basketball championship.
Those words have been uttered often over the last three years as Southern Lehigh has claimed the last three league titles its most recent coming by defeating Northwestern 62-57 a year ago.
The top-seeded Tigers (22-1) will be looking to end that run and claim a championship for themselves when the two clubs meet Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Freedom High School.
"These are the two best teams playing in the championship," Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch said. "I know some coaches will say that this is just another game, but it isn't. Let's be realistic here. This is a championship game."
Most would agree with Deutsch that these are the two top teams in the league vying for the title tonight as Southern Lehigh, the second seed in the tourney, won the South Division crown and went 15-1 in the league this season. Their only setback was a 58-53 loss to Northwestern.
The Tigers held their own by winning the North Division and boast a 15-1 league record as well. Their lone loss in the league came at the hands of Salisbury, who won 42-41 with a three-pointer with five seconds remaining.
The Spartans defeated Salisbury, 52-48, in their semifinal game on Tuesday night to advance. The Tigers took care of Bangor, 53-36, as the Slaters failed to score a point in the third quarter.
Deutsch talked about what his girls need to do against Solehi.
"We just have to come out relaxed, poised and play our game. We tell our girls that if we play our game that we believe we can beat anyone on the schedule and I really believe that. If we play our game, we are a tough team to beat."
The individual charged with trying to figure out how to beat Northwestern is Southern Lehigh's head coach, Megan Dellegrotti, and she's aware how tough it is to defeat the Tigers.
"Northwestern is a very scrappy team," Dellegroti said. "They are well-balanced and play very hard. We have to handle their pressure, and contain basically their entire starting five. I think [Sabrina] Mertz does a great job handling the ball. We have to keep [Trista] Cunningham off the boards. It is going to take a good team effort to beat them."
Dellegrotti has a talented group that is capable of mounting such an effort. They are led by senior Madelene McDonald, who is averaging 17.0 ppg. Their No. 2 option, junior Mady Campbell, averages 11.5 ppg and was limited in their lone meeting earlier this season due to an ankle injury. Also, senior Brianna Prince is a solid reserve player who scored 12 points off the bench when these two squads clashed back in January.
Northwestern will counter with their offensive firepower as Mertz (11.5 ppg) and Cunningham (12.7 ppg) are capable of going off on any given night. Along with them are junior Sarah Segan, and sophomores Erika Thomas and Megan Landrigan.
"It gives us a lot of motivation," Segan said of facing the Lady Spartans for the title. "As a team, we respect them, but we are hoping to get our revenge."