WINSTED — Northwestern’s girls basketball team won a face-off of early-season Berkshire League undefeated’s 43-33 Monday night against Shepaug with an edge in defense, rebounds, depth and confidence at Northwestern High School.
Playing without starter Jana Sanden, one of Northwestern’s major rebounders (15 boards/game), nobody exhibited the Highlanders’ winning package more than 5-4 guard Skylar Dimartino.
In a closely-called game with lots and lots of fouls, Northwestern star forward Natalie Lederman led the Highlanders to a 10-6 advantage with six of her nine game points in the first period, but drew her second foul in the process just 1:42 from the end of the period.
Lederman sat for the second period, then caught a third foul early in the third, hitting the bench again until the final quarter. In two full periods, Lederman still hauled in 7 rebounds, but a would-be Northwestern size advantage turned into sheer scrappiness by the Highlanders (6-0).
Dimartino was the most opportunistic of them all, scoring a game-high 18 points while leading Northwestern to a 36-25 rebounding margin with a team-high 9.
Guard Francesca DeSanti, even shorter at 5-feet-1, was next on the boards with 8.
“It was a test,” Shepaug coach Karen Puskas said. “Northwestern showed up to play; most of our team did not.”
Despite the fouls – or maybe because of the in-your-face play behind them — Shepaug’s 4-0 confidence melted early, forcing the Spartans into forced shots, tied-up travel calls on drives and 16 turnovers.
The Spartan defense caused some mayhem of its own, with 15 turnovers for the Highlanders, but they didn’t show as much thanks to Northwestern’s multiple chances at the basket in their rebounding dominance.
“We didn’t take the ball to the basket,” said Coach Puskas, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“We’re still young,” Puskas said, pointing to one senior and four juniors who have played together since fourth grade. “They’ve got five players who can play the game.”
In the absence of two key players for much of Monday night, it’s actually more than that.
“It was a nice win, facing adversity without one of our key starters,” Northwestern coach Fred Williams said. “We have two freshmen and a junior who stepped up tonight.”
Morgan Plitt, a freshman starter, scored 10 points, along with three blocks on defense. Junior Abby Whalen was a key part of the defense.
Keeping up the steady pressure, Northwestern led 21-15 at the half, 31-23 after three quarters.
“They gave us a good game,” Lederman said.