LITITZ – Everyone in the joint knew they couldn’t come back. And they were all right.
But no matter how sure they were, no one would’ve dared to say what they were thinking to the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team.
On Friday night at Warwick High School, during the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game, the Vikings’ furious and valiant comeback from a 21-point deficit came up short and they fell to Lancaster Catholic 46-34. After falling behind 35-14 in the middle of the third quarter, Northern Lebanon pulled to within 38-32 with 3:18 to go, but then could only manage two points the rest of the way.
No one has won more Lancaster-Lebanon League championships than Lancaster Catholic’s 12. The Crusaders improved to 24-1 overall.
Up next for Northern Lebanon is a date with Milton Hershey in the opening round of the District Three Class AAA postseason. The Vikings will be the second seed when they host the Spartans on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“It was too much too overcome if we didn’t get rammy,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli. “When we got rammy, it wasn’t too much to overcome. If we make our lay-ups and free throws, it’s possible. When our defense is right and our offense is right, we have spurt-ability. We can score and we can hold teams without points for long periods of time. We didn’t think it was over, not at halftime. But I can’t say I wasn’t a little worried early in the third quarter.
“Although mentally we weren’t in it, these kids don’t know they’re allowed to get tired,” continued Battistelli. “They wish they would’ve had another quarter. They would play for us until they collapsed.”
Northern Lebanon’s monstrous 18-3 run stretched for more than eight minutes of game clock and was ignited by back-to-back three-pointers from Cassiah Ray and Liz Voight. Megan Brandt tallied seven points in the spurt, while Zoe Zerman tallied four.
It was Brandt’s foul shot which pulled the Vikings to within 38-32 of the Crusaders.
“We missed a lot of foul shots, a lot of lay-ups, a lot of box-out assignments,” said Battistelli. “We turned up the intensity in the second half. But I don’t know if the cloud over us ever went away. If you’re going to make a comeback, you’ve got to hit on a lot of cylinders. It makes me think we have a lot to offer.
“In the second half, with just a little change in attitude, we got more,” Battistelli continued. “But we never executed offensively. We still didn’t play well. We just played harder.”
Northern Lebanon also closed to within 40-34 on an Amber Kintzer lay-in with 2:22 remaining. But Lancaster Catholic notched the last six points of the contest, despite two-of-eight foul shooting over the final 1:29.
“I have no idea. None whatsoever. I don’t have any answer,” said Battistelli. “If I had to guess, I think it was a big stage for the kids, and not a lot of experience on the big stage. We were out of whack. They’re aggressive and tough. We thought we were prepared, but we weren’t.
“The first time against them, we were just playing, battling and playing,” added Battistelli. “We were carrying a little weight on our shoulders tonight. Maybe we approached it wrong. Maybe I was nervous.”
Despite being the focus of the Crusaders’ defensive attention, Zerman collected a total of 11 points, and Brandt canned ten. The Crusaders shot nine-for-20 from the foul line, but at eight-for-15, the Vikings weren’t much better.
The Crusaders out rebounded the Vikings by a 36-26 count. Northern Lebanon outscored Lancaster Catholic 12-3 from beyond the arc.
“It’s funny with stuff like that,” said Battistelli. “Their type of pressure is designed to make our younger guards uncomfortable. It takes a lot of experience and a lot of guts to attack in a game like that. That’s basically what they did in the second half. They tried to take Zoe out of the game the same way they did last time. Tonight we were ready for it, but last time I thought we handled it better.
Not much went Northern Lebanon’s way in the first half, which may have been its worst of the season.
After the Crusaders established a 10-4 lead in the opening quarter, Voight responded for Northern Lebanon off an in-bound play 22 seconds into the second stanza. A Brandt baseline move two minutes later kept the Vikings close, at 14-9.
Then 3:33 before the intermission, Zerman drilled a three-pointer to pull Northern Lebanon to within 19-12. But the Crusaders recorded the final eight points of the half to open a 27-12 bulge.
“I would think like in a month there’ll be a silver lining,” said Battistelli.
“I would like to play them (the Crusaders) again,” continued Battistelli. “But I’m not going to put my mouth where the kids have to back it up. I’m not going to create bulletin board material. If I could take the punishment with them, maybe I would.”
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|7:00 PM||W 64-23|
|7:00 PM||W 39-28|
|7:30 PM||W 47-15|
|7:30 PM||W 53-35|
|7:30 PM||W 47-36|
|7:30 PM||W 52-18|
|7:30 PM||W 57-39|
|7:30 PM||W 55-46|
|7:30 PM||W 44-35|
|4:00 PM||W 44-20|
|6:00 PM||W 26-10|
|7:30 PM||W 51-34|
|7:30 PM||W 56-23|
|7:30 PM||W 53-24|
|7:30 PM||L 49-53|
|7:30 PM||W 53-40|
|4:30 PM||W 49-27|
|7:30 PM||W 42-32|
|7:30 PM||W 47-35|
|7:30 PM||W 56-32|
|7:30 PM||W 40-32|
|7:30 PM||W 39-26|
|7:00 PM||W 47-41|
|7:00 PM||W 40-21|
|7:00 PM||L 34-46|
|7:00 PM||Northern Lebanon High School|
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