BY JEFF FALK
Photos by MATTHEW BERDINKA FREDERICKSBURG – For some, it would be a modest beginning. But at Northern Lebanon, the boys’ basketball team is excited, ecstatic and down right tickled pink.
Well, what’s youth without a little exhuberance?
On Wednesday night, a youthful Vikings’ outfit registered their most signficant win of a young season, defeating a solid Tulpehocken team 53-50. After absorbing the Trojans’ best blow in the third quarter, Northern Lebanon took control of the outcome early in the final stanza, with its defense and play-making abilities.
With the score tied early in the fourth, Northern Lebanon pieced together a decisive 6-0 spurt – on a couple of baskets from Brad Kreiser and a drive by Sam Light – to take a 47-41 lead with 1:30 to go. Kreiser, Richard Iwuagwu and Matt Foster then added free throws to ice it.
With the triumph, Northern Lebanon improved to 2-1 on the campaign. Tulpehocken fell to 2-2.
“At times, we showed some impatience,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Gary Bouchette, effectively checking his excitement. “Sometimes we get in our heads, ‘Go, go, go.’ Sometimes we force the issue. That’s maturity. I don’t know if we have that feeling for time and score.
“But they (his players) played hard,” Bouchette continued. “They battled. You have guys running the length of the floor and diving on the court for loose balls at the end. That’s something you can’t coach.”
On this particular evening, the Vikings were led by Light, a tough 5-10 sophomore guard who poured in 25 points on two three-pointers and a variety of moves around the hole. Kreiser contributed 13 points, while NL’s top player, 6-2 junior Pat Stevens collected nine points, five blocks and a handful of rebounds.
“He’s going to get better as he plays,” said Bouchette of Light. “Sometimes he forces too much, tries to dribble through traffic. This was his third varsity game. He’s learning. We have a lot of inexperienced varsity players. Pat’s (Stevens) the only one who got varsity time last year.
“There’s going to be games like that,” Bouchette continued. “We got 13 from Kreiser. That’s a big lift. A lot of guys picked up the slack. But Pat was banging with the big guys in there. He’s a legitimate 6-2, but he’s got some springs and he’s physical.”
After playing extremely well in the first half, the Vikings were hit by a 14-2 Trojan spurt that turned their 30-21 lead into a 35-32 deficit. But instead of going away in the fourth, Northern Lebanon fought back, hard.
“Looking at their faces, I thought they (his players) were going to (fold),” said Bouchette. “We took a timeout, re-organized and everything kind of switched.
“They’re (the Trojans) a good team,” continued Bouchette. “They beat Elco up pretty good. And they were right there with Lebanon. The big kid’s (Tyler Woomer) a stud. He’s a nice player. I’m surprised they didn’t go into him more.”
The Vikings grabbed a 12-8 advantage in the middle of the opening period on a three-pointer by Iwuagwu. Then during a 4:35 stretch in the second, Northern Lebanon strung together an 11-0 run to assume a 23-12 lead.
Light had four points in the uprising and Stevens three. At the break, the Vikings held a 28-19 margin.
“The season has gone exactly the way I expected, honestly,” said Bouchette. “Look at the games we won, they could’ve been losses just the same. The kids are playing hard. That’s what I’m asking from them.
“They have to play together,” added Bouchette. “They have to work through things together. Yeah, Sam scored 23 points. But he had a lot of help out there.”