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Bulldogs fall in D-11 title game

POTTSVILLE - Northern Lehigh didn’t get the District 11 championship it wanted.

But the Bulldogs’ run to the Class 2A title game and their performance in it, earned them plenty of respect from someone who knows a lot about playoff basketball.

Friday night at Martz Hall, Northern Lehigh’s bid for the first district title in program history came up short as Minersville posted a 55-49 victory.

While the Bulldogs have been virtual outsiders when it comes to championship basketball in recent times - playing in their first title game since 2011 - the Miners have been among the postseason elite, capturing their sixth district title in coach Jared Homa’s 14 years in charge of the program.

So when Homa talks District 11 tournament basketball and the quality of teams taking part in it, he knows what he’s talking about.

“This was a great win for our program,” said Homa. “This is our sixth championship since we’ve been here, and I can honestly say that this is the toughest field we have ever been part of ... there were six teams in the 2A field who were talented enough to win this tournament.

“Northern Lehigh is right there at the top of that list. They beat two really good teams in Williams Valley and Marian to get here and battled us extremely hard. That’s a really talented and well-coached team we beat tonight.”

Among the keys for Minersville was the long-range shooting of Brooke Kopinetz, who topped all scorers with 18 points. Kopinetz had four of her team’s eight three-pointers in the game, including two in the opening minutes as Minersville raced out to a 10-2 lead.

“We knew they had several players who could hit from long range and that they weren’t afraid to let them fly from anywhere on the court,” said Northern Lehigh head coach Chris Heery. “Kopinetz is probably their biggest threat and she hit a few long ones early that forced us to change things up defensively.

“We normally like to pack our zone in, but after scouting Minersville, we knew we would have to extend further than we usually do. But it didn’t matter ... they hit a couple early threes from well behind the arc. Because of that, we tried several different things defensively, including playing a lot more man-to-man than we usually do.”

Despite the Miners’ early advantage and their ability to knock down enough threes to keep Northern Lehigh from ever leading in the game, the Bulldogs continually battled and never let Minersville get comfortable.

Northern Lerhigh forced the game’s only tie when Dekota Barthold scored from in close to make it 21-21 with 3:15 left in the second quarter.

After Minersville (22-4) opened its biggest lead of the night (41-29) on an Ayla Castle three-pointer with 3:47 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs once again clawed their way back into it, pulling to within 49-46 on a pair of Dekota Barthold free throws with 1:58 remaining in the game.

“Between my assistants and myself, we probably watched about 20 Northern Lehigh games on film,” said Homa. “It’s obvious right away that No. 15 (Aubrey Pollard) and No. 43 (Teegan Simms) are extremely talented players. But the more we watched them, the scarier they got because you realized that all their other starters were really good too. Every game, it seemed like someone else was stepping up and scoring double figures.

“I thought we did a nice job of making 15 and 43 really work for their points and preventing their other players from going off and having huge games. It was a total team effort defensively.”

That defense and some clutch foul shooting allowed Minersville to gradually increase its spread down the stretch. The Miners’ Keera Brennan hit three of four free throws after Barthold had made it a one-possesion game and teammates Taylor Conti and Kopinetz also converted free throws in the final seconds. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ comeback was short-circuited by four straight misses from the field in the closing minutes before Kylee Snyder scored at the buzzer to finally break the dryspell.

“We lost to a really good Minersville team. They have played in a bunch of district championship games in the last several years and they know how to win big games,” said Heery. “But I couldn’t ask for anything more from our kids. They gave everything they had tonight and have no reason to hang their heads.

“It’s an incredible honor to be in the state tournament for the second straight year. It’s like starting all over again and we’re excited about the opportunity to play more basketball.”

THE LINE ... Minersville didn’t have a field goal during the game’s final 10:43. The Miners’ final 12 points all came from the free throw line.

POLLARD POWER ... Pollard had an outstanding game with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs. She not only powered NL with her physical play in the paint, but was a motivational leader as well. “We all wanted this so bad,” she said. “It’s disappointing, but we still have a lot out there yet. We just need to regroup and get ready to make a run in the state playoffs.”

MORE STARS ... Simms had three triples and finished with 13 points for the Bulldogs, while Dekota Barthold added 11 points and eight rebounds.

UP NEXT ... Northern Lehigh (16-10) will face the District 12 champ in the opening round of States next Friday. The game will most likely be played in the Philadelphia area.


Whalen 0-0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0-0, K. Barthold 4-0-0-8, Pollard 6-3-6-15, D. Barthold 4-2-2-11, Simms 4-2-2-13, Snyder 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 19-7-10-49


Cullen 0-0-0-0, Conti 3-2-2-11, Brennan 3-10-15-16, Kopinetz 6-2-4-18, Burgess 0-0-0-0, Castle 1-0-0-3, Raczka 3-1-2-7. TOTALS: 16-15-23-55.

Northern Lehigh 10 14 14 11 - 49

Minersville 12 16 18 9 - 55

Three-pointers: Northern Lehigh - Simms 3, D. Barthold 1; Minersville - Kopinetz 4, Conti 3, Castle 1.

Northern Lehigh's Katelyn Barthold tries to drive past Keera Brennan of Minersville during Friday's district championship game. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS