State playoff game tops Miller’s list
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Times News will be running a series of stories asking area coaches and athletic directors to recall their “most memorable” sporting event. Today’s most memorable moment comes from Northern Lehigh boys basketball coach Jeff Miller.)
By TJ ENGLE
In two different stints with the Lehighton boys basketball program, Jeff Miller served as both an assistant and a head coach.
Miller also coached on the collegiate level with the Lehigh Carbon County Community College boys’ program years ago.
But for the past 10 seasons, Miller has been the lead Dawg for the Northern Lehigh boys basketball program.
Miller has spent countless hours coaching, whether it was with the Indians, Cougars or Bulldogs, and he has experienced all the highs and lows the sport has to offer.
But when asked which game over the last 30 years is his most memorable, Miller was quick to supply an answer.
Miller pinpointed a postseason game he was part of as the Northern Lehigh head coach on March 9, 2012.
“We were playing against Abington Heights, who at the time was probably one of the best teams in the state,” Miller said of the PIAA playoff game eight years ago. “And, I think at that time, it was Class 3A. They didn’t have six classes at that point yet.
“But it was a great atmosphere. It was a great game. And, obviously, a very memorable game for me as a coach.”
Northern Lehigh entered the first round of the state playoffs as the No. 3 seed out of District 11, while Abington Heights was the top seed and District 2 champion.
The Bulldogs had to travel to the Comets’ backyard, tacking the court at Lackawanna College.
“We basically went up into their neighborhood - it was basically a home game for them,” Miller said. “Devon Glose, who is now my assistant coach and was our point guard, was our lone senior starter. The rest of the kids were all underclassmen.
“So, we were going in with a bunch of juniors, with maybe one or two seniors on our squad.”
The younger Bulldogs opened things up with a 20-9 first quarter.
But the momentum quickly swung in favor of Abington Heights, which went on a 22-4 second-quarter run to change the complexion of the game.
The Bulldogs kept it close in the third quarter. With 2:32 left in the period, Lucas Pierce, who went 5-for-5 from the foul line in the game, hit a pair of free throws to pull the Bulldogs within one.
Entering the fourth, Northern Lehigh trailed by just two points.
The Bulldogs took the lead with 6:18 left in the game on a Pierce three-point play after he was fouled making a layup.
“We go up into their backyard, and no one gave us a chance. No one,” Miller stressed. “We didn’t win the game, but we gave them everything they wanted.
“And we had a shot at the end of the game to win the game, and we just missed it.”
It was Abington Heights’ JC Show who eventually helped the Comets survive. Show’s three-point shooting sparked the Comets to a 64-54 win over Miller and his Bulldogs.
Pierce finished with a Bulldogs’ high of 21 points that night, while Glose added 10.
While Miller noted “it was the most memorable in not such a good way.” he was proud of the effort that his team gave on that day eight years ago.
In the story that ran afterward, Miller was quoted as saying, “I couldn’t be any prouder of the way we fought tonight. After that second quarter, our kids could have played with their heads down, but they never gave up.”
It’s effort and toughness like Bulldogs displayed that night that Miller said keeps him involved with the game of basketball.
And it’s games like that - whether they were wins or losses or whether they came in the regular or the postseason - that make coaching worthwhile for Miller.