Girls fall to Nazareth
The third time proved not to be a charm when the Whitehall girls basketball team met Nazareth in the opening round of the district playoffs.
The Zephyrs were in pursuit of a District XI 4A title, and standing in their way were the Blue Eagles, a team that defeated them twice during the regular season.
Their contest was the first game of a double-header at Northern Lehigh High School last Friday, and the Zephs were looking to end Nazareth's streak at two wins this season.
Once the game got underway, the Zephs were dealing with a team whose length poses problems. They were also battling turnovers, something that afflicted both teams in the first half. The two teams combined for 26 turnovers before intermission, with Nazareth holding a slim 13-9 lead.
That turnover trend continued for the Zephs in the second half as Nazareth pulled away in the third, and then held on for a 34-25 victory, ending the Zephyrs season.
While it wasn't a clean first half, head coach Dwight Repsher felt they played well defensively, keeping the Blue Eagles in check. Nazareth came into the game averaging a little over 45 points a game.
"I really thought we came out and played well defensively," said Repsher who guided the Zephs to a 11-12 record this year. "I thought we really played well in the first half. A few less turnovers, and we missed a couple of open jump shots, but we were right there."
Despite the turnovers, Repsher felt they were in good shape heading into halftime. They just needed to minimize their mistakes.
But that's when Nazareth settled down and started connecting from the floor, outscoring the Zephs by seven in the third period.
While the Blue Eagles were able to eliminate the miscues, Whitehall couldn't shake the turnover bug.
"We had 26 turnovers," said Repsher. "That's the only thing you can say. We didn't get enough shots at the basket. I mean, we lost by 11 and had 26 turnovers."
Repsher said while they had a good week of practice heading into the game, they couldn't replicate Nazareth's length. Still, they managed to battle in the paint with Karly Klein, Ivanna Jones and Kelsey Munn doing yeoman's work inside.
"We played hard and rebounded the ball," said Repsher.
Still, it came back to empty possessions, something they could ill afford to do against the Blue Eagles. Repsher said that the 26 turnovers was the most they had all season by a significant margin.
Often times they committed the turnovers against their trapping defense, preventing them from getting into their offensive sets.
The Zephs managed to sink two treys down the stretch, with Taylor George and LeAnna Cruz connecting from beyond the arc to trim the deficit to nine. But Nazareth was able to sink their free throws in the closing minutes to preserve the win.
"When we got into our game, in the fourth quarter, we made some shots, but in the third quarter, we couldn't get into our offense," said Repsher. That wasn't Nazareth's fault. That was our fault."
The Zephs were led by George who finished with eight points. Both Klein and Cruz added five, while Jones, Jill Rex and Alix Buskirk each had two.
The season may have ended, but the journey is well worth remembering. It was highlighted by a postseason appearance, a remarkable achievement for a young squad that was seven games below .500 last year.
"I told them it was a great year," said Repsher. "We had some really nice wins. We took a step from last year to this year, and then we'll take one from this year to next year."