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And the rest will be icing on Northern Lebanon's cake. 

IMG_4126BY JEFF FALK

HERSEHY – Northern Lebanon is the most deserving Class AAAA girls’ team in District Three. That’s what makes it a worthy champion.

They didn’t follow some preordained destiny. The Vikings made their own. And some history along the way.

On Friday evening at Hershey’s Giant Center, the Vikings captured their first District Three championship in school history, with a tense, physical and hard-fought 46-44 victory over Bishop McDevitt in the final. Northern Lebanon outscored the Crusaders 12-10 in crunch time, after star point guard Zoe Zerman fouled out with 3:24 remaining.

Ultimately, the Vikings got the job done in crunch time with late lay-ups from fellow seniors Megan Brandt and Amber Kintzer and by going eight-for-16 at the foul line – a figure which included four technical foul misses with 35 seconds remaining. Fittingly, the decisive point was a free throw registered by Brandt with 15 ticks left, one that made it 45-42 and pretty much made Crusader Mercedes Cheatham’s stick-back with four seconds to go meaningless.

IMG_3860Before last night, all top-seeded Northern Lebanon really had to show for more than 50 wins over the last two seasons were a pair of Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championships. A District Three title is totally a different matter, one which solidifies the current Vikings’ claim of being the best in program history.

Now 25-2 overall, Northern Lebanon will take on the fifth-place finisher out of District 12 on Friday, March 10 at a site and time to be determined, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament. Bishop McDevitt, champions of the Mid-Penn Conference and the third seed in the District Three tournament,will carry a 21-5 mark into the state playoffs.

“To me, it’s the final legacy of the greatest girls’ basketball team to play at Northern Lebanon,” said Viking head coach Ken Battistelli. “Once upon a time there was a bunch of little girls who were the best to ever play the game. All I want is for them to be remembered as the special players they are. Two section championships and a district title makes for a good legacy.

IMG_3885“I spend half my time absolutely petrified we’re going to fail and the world won’t know how good these kids are,” added Battistelli. “I’m so lucky to have this group of kids. I’m smart enough to know I have a team built for me, a team built for each other. I’m as proud as I can ever be. Now they will be remembered as district champs.”

“We have to think we’re champions,” said Viking junior Liz Voight. “We practice really hard for this. We think if we work hard in practice, we’re good for games.”

Things appeared a bit bleak for Northern Lebanon when Bishop McDevitt tallied eight of the first nine points in the fourth quarter to open a 34-29 margin. But while holding the Crusaders without a point over the next five minutes, the Vikings got an inside move and an old-fashioned three-point play from Zoe Zerman to tie the score.

Three minutes later, Zoe Zerman fouled out.

IMG_3822“I wanted to puke,” said Battistelli of Zoe Zerman’s fifth foul. “Zoe has been battling foul issues lately. But Zoe has been playing the other team’s best player. She doesn’t just play offense. I was a mess. I don’t like her not being out there.

“It was that ‘You’re expected to succeed’ mentality,” continued Battistelli. “I don’t care if it’s Zeke (freshman Zara Zerman) or whoever. I’m going to be mad when they don’t make those free throws, whether its a district championship game or not. It doesn’t matter who’s on the floor. Whoever’s on the floor has got to get it done.”

“When Zoe gets the ball, I feel like I’m settled,” said Voight. “When she wasn’t in there, I felt like we had to step up. That’s what we did.”

It was Voight’s banked three-pointer at the end of the third quarter which gave Northern Lebanon a 28-26 edge. Seven straight Zoe Zerman points and a 5:11 Crusader scoring drought had erased Bishop McDevitt’s earlier 23-18 advantage.

“That’s kind of symbolic of how we do things,” said Battistelli. “You never know from day-to-day who’s going to step up and save the day. They’re (his players) all capable. It’s hard to take anything away from us.”

IMG_3927“It was very stressful,” said Voight. “But we pulled out the win. We were strong with the ball and we had to hit our foul shots.”

Despite being saddled with three first-half fouls, Zoe Zerman paced the Viking attack with 16 points. Voight struck for 11 points, while Brandt posted ten points and 13 rebounds.

Crusader sharpshooter Olivia Fasick stroked four three-pointers and piled up 25 a game-high points. Northern Lebanon outscored Bishop McDevitt by six points at the charity stripe.

“They are that tough it was terrible, especially without Zoe,” said Battistelli of the Crusaders. “They’re fast.. They are so strong. They are a physically powerful team. Bishop McDevitt has some tough kids.”

“It’s something to come here and play,” said Voight. “But we had to focus on the team. We knew we couldn’t be worn down. They (the Crusaders) were really quick and aggressive.”

Driving lay-ins by Voight and Brandt 15 seconds apart early in the second quarter gave the Vikings a 12-9 lead. And free throws from Voight and Zara Zerman made it 16-13 Northern Lebanon, 1:32 before the break.

“I thought it was ourselves, the atmosphere, the situation,” said Battistelli of his team’s first-half play. “They (the Crusaders) were causing us to play a certain way. They were causing us to play bad.

“At halftime I yelled at them (his players) and told them to man up,” added Battistelli. “Our kids know our expectation is to succeed.”

IMG_4019“Last year when we won the section,” said Voight, of the first time she thought Northern Lebanon could win a district championship. “I just believed we could beat every team we played. We just had the confidence we could do it.”

Back-to-back baskets from Zoe Zerman staked the Vikings to an early 6-2 lead. The opening period ended with Zara Zerman going hard to the hole, and with Northern Lebanon up 8-7.

“What it came down to was our mental make-up that ‘you must succeed’,” said Battistelli. ” ‘You are expected to get the job done’. They (his players) don’t shoot it with fear. No one’s perfect, but we want to be.

“We can lose to anyone (in the PIAA postseason) because we’re not physically superior,” Battistelli continued. “But we can beat anyone because all of our kids have hearts like lions. We rarely don’t show up.”

 

 

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To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.

 

 

 

 

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2016-17 Northern Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Results

Date Teams Score
12/09
7:00 pm
Littlestown
at Northern Lebanon
22
56
12/10
7:30 pm
Palmyra
at Northern Lebanon
24
43
12/13
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Middletown
67
52
12/14
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Garden Spot
53
23
12/16
7:30 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Northern Lebanon
24
58
12/19
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lebanon Catholic
42
45
12/21
7:30 pm
Columbia
at Northern Lebanon
36
56
12/27
6:00 pm
McCaskey
Northern Lebanon
at Lebanon
36
47
12/28
7:30 pm
New Oxford
Northern Lebanon
at Lebanon
38
53
1/03
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Pequea Valley
54
33
1/06
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Catholic
49
35
1/10
7:30 pm
Lancaster Mennonite
at Northern Lebanon
21
50
1/13
7:30 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon
22
51
1/17
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Annville-Cleona
48
18
1/20
7:30 pm
Lebanon Catholic
at Northern Lebanon
31
44
1/21
7:30 pm
Tulpehocken
at Northern Lebanon
29
57
1/24
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Columbia
55
34
1/26
7:30 pm
Manheim Central
at Northern Lebanon
23
48
1/27
7:30 pm
Pequea Valley
at Northern Lebanon
41
62
1/31
7:30 pm
Lancaster Catholic
at Northern Lebanon
41
50
2/03
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Mennonite
53
37
2/07
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco
58
30
2/11
6:00 pm
Hempfield
at Northern Lebanon
31
53
2/14
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
Cedar Crest
at Lebanon
40
49
2/24
7:00 pm
Berks Catholic
at Northern Lebanon
38
41
2/28
8:00 pm
Lancaster Catholic
Northern Lebanon
at Warwick
43
50
3/03
5:00 pm
Bishop McDevitt
Northern Lebanon
at Giant Center

 

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LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

BOYS

Annville-Cleona: None.
Cedar Crest: None.
Elco: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA)

GIRLS

Annville-Cleona: None.
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
IMG_4128Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017
Northern Lebanon: 2017 (AAAA)
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)

 

 

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