HERSHEY >> There's a simple reason coach Bill Novak's Northeastern Bobcats will be playing for their season Thursday night against YAIAA rival York Suburban. And that reason wears No. 42 for the Berks Catholic Saints.
Junior center Devon Merritt gashed Northeastern for a game-high 29 points Tuesday evening at Milton Hershey School's Spartan Center as the Berks League outfit rolled the Bobcats, 74-55, in a girls' basketball Class AAA district consolation game.
The Saints clinched a PIAA berth for the second consecutive season. The Bobcats, meanwhile, will square off against York Suburban Thursday night at a site to be determined in the seventh-place game, where the final state playoff berth will be on the line.
The game was not without a shining moment for Northeastern. Senior swing Payton Hauck, needing eight points to reach 1,000 career points, got it on the final bucket of the first quarter, with two seconds on the clock. The game was stopped briefly as Hauck received a rousing ovation and ran across the court to greet her family.
"It was a great moment I'll remember for the rest of my career and my life, I think," Hauck said. "I'm thankful that I got myself there because of the team. The team was the main reason. They focused on me getting it; they pushed me to get it.
"I thought I was going to get it last game, but I only had three points. It got to me I think, because I was too worried about it. It's a great moment, but I don't like all the attention. I'm glad it's over with."
A Boston University recruit, Hauck finished the night with a team-high 15 points and 1,007 career points.
At the other end of the floor, Merritt was a force from the opening tip. The 6-foot-3 post player scored eight of Catholic's first 10 points, signaling a so-so performance in a loss against league rival Conrad Weiser last weekend was in her rearview mirror. She was also dominant on the glass.
Merritt had no physical equal on the floor Tuesday and took full advantage. She had 16 points at the break. The closest the Bobcats got after the opening tip was a one-point deficit 1:01 into the contest.
"She's a talent, she's got size, we needed to get a body on her and get her out of (the paint) and we didn't do a good job of that," Northeastern coach Bill Novak said.
The Bobcats could not ignore the perimeter however, and that presented issues. Xiomara Toledo drained a trio of 3-pointers en route to 16 points. Saints forward Mikayla Lea was also a pest on the boards and kept several possessions alive by corralling a number of offensive boards.
Trailing 35-23 at the break, the Bobcats were able to craft a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter. But Catholic rode that out with a 10-2 response, bridging the third and fourth periods, to keep Northeastern at arm's length.
"I thought we did a nice job against their pressure," Berks Catholic coach Bob Birmingham said. "They came with that 1-3-1, 2-2-1 and I don't think we turned it over too much. When we were patient, we got some nice shots and some clean looks."
Berks Catholic 74, Northeastern 55
A Meyer 3 0-0 8, Kendra Meyer 4 0-0 11, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Martin 0 0-0 0, Payton Hauck 6 3-4 15, Schroter 0 0-0 0, Pace 2 0-0 6, Weekes 1 0-0 3, Jordyn Kloster 5 2-4 12.
Totals: 21 5-8 55.
Berks Catholic (75)
Lea 3 2-2 9, Wright 0 0-0 0, Kubinak 3 0-0 8, Blankenbiller 0 0-0 0, Lockhart 0 0-0 0, C Wensel 3 0-0 6, Zdradzinski 0 0-0 0, Xiomara Toledo 5 3-3 16, Cabrera 0 0-0 0, Devon Merritt 14 1-3 29, B Wensel 3 0-0 6, Gaffney 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 32 6-8 74.
3-point field goals — Ne 8 (K. Meyer 3, A. Meyer 2, Pace 2, Weekes). BC 6 (Toledo 3, Kubinak, Lea).