BY JEFF FALK
LITITZ – Third in the section. Sixth in the district. Seventeen wins.
Teams set goals at the beginning of each season, and if they’re not realized, disappointment and frustration don’t always follow. It’s not that they settle, they just begin to see things in a different light, put things in a different perspective.
It’s a perspective that can also be applied to life off the court.
You see, success is rarely black and white – and it can’t always be quantified.
On Wednesday night at Warwick High School, one of the finest seasons in the Northern Lebanon boys’ basketball program’s history concluded, with an unceremonious 57-42 loss to nemesis Lancaster Catholic, in a District Three Class AAAA fifth-place game that also served as a state-playoff qualifier. Disappointingly, the Vikings could never mount much of a charge, after the Crusaders gained control of the outcome with a 19-7 romp through the second quarter.
It was somehow ironic that it was the Crusaders who ended Northern Lebanon’s season and denied it a coveted berth in the upcoming PIAA Class AAAA postseason. During the regular year, Lancaster Catholic had defeated the Vikings 61-38 in Lancaster on January 11th and 55-54 in Fredericksburg on January 30th, in a controversial decision that, in retrospect, seemed to signal the beginning of the end for Northern Lebanon.
Officially, Northern Lebanon, the seventh seed in the event, ended the year at 17-10. Over their last eight games, the Vikings compiled a 2-6 overall record.
Lancaster Catholic, the number-one seed, improved to 24-4.
“A season has so many blips in it, it changes your expectations,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Chris George. “Overall, I can’t see it as a failure. You could look at it as an ‘almost’. We just missed a section title. But they (his players) did some awesome things. They’ve gotten to some spots we’ve never been before. Hopefully we can build off of it, but we know next year is going to be a step back. But we built some confidence about what we can do. This group took it to another level. We hung around because we’re gritty kids.
“That’s always a cool thing to see, kids grow individually and as a team,” continued George. “We spent so much time together off the court. The thing we’re going to miss is not seeing these kids grow as people. They’ve come a long way. It was a challenging group to coach at times. The kids bought in, but we had our struggles. In the end, it worked out pretty good for these guys.”
Feeding off each other’s energy, the Vikings seemed poised to seize the moment at the start.
A Josh Bowers three-pointer combined with a Michigan Daub lay-in staked Northern Lebanon to an early 5-2 cushion. And a deuce and triple from Alex Yeager gave the Vikings a 12-11 lead after a period of play.
“Obviously we had a really nice season,” said George. “We want to focus on the positives. We don’t want to dwell on the negatives that happened in this game. We showed really well in the playoffs. We did some things in the playoffs that no other Northern Lebanon team ever did. But the farther you get, the harder it’s going to be.”
The first sign of crack in the Vikings’ armor came in the second stanza.
Northern Lebanon went without a point for the first four minutes of the stanza, during which time the Crusaders were constructing a 19-12 lead. Then in the four minutes leading up to halftime, Lancaster Catholic outscored the Vikings 11-4, to push its advantage 30-19.
“A couple of turnovers to some of their traps, and a couple of second-chance points by them, and we missed some foul shots in the first half,” said George. “We certainly got what we wanted (offensively). We don’t want to live or die by the three. But we couldn’t convert,
“Give them (the Crusaders) credit,” added George. “They were jumping in and out of things (defensively).”
Yeager collected a team-high 13 points and Light contributed 12. Northern Lebanon made just eight of its 20 free throw attempts, which was only slightly worse than the Crusaders’ ten-for-20 foul shooting.
Lancaster Catholic outscored the Vikings 38-10 on two-point field goals.
“You certainly don’t want to lose to a section foe,” said George. “If we hit foul shots, we’re in the game. When you lose by 14 or 15 and you miss 12 foul shots, it’s tough. We certainly picked a bad night not to shoot free throws. But I thought our defense was pretty solid.”
But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the outing was that Northern Lebanon never seriously made a run at the Crusaders in the second half.
Another Yeager trey three minutes into the third period pulled the Vikings to within 34-23. But over the remainder of the quarter, Lancaster Catholic went on a 12-4 spurt to increase its lead to 46-27.
“A couple of our main guys couldn’t get it going,” said George. “Give some of their kids credit. But it started feeling like the ball just wasn’t rolling our way.”
The closest the Vikings would come in the final quarter was 50-36, on a trifecta from Bowers, with 4:44 to go.
“A lot of these guys grew up over the season,” said Geroge. “With Michigan (Daub), it would’ve been nice to have him healthy all season. If we would’ve had him all year, we might have been longer in our evolution. Alex and Caleb get all the scoring and publicity, but they’ve grown as players. Caleb is a kid who’s self-made. But I’m proud of all of them. They’ll be remembered.”
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2017-18 Northern Lebanon Boys’ Basketball Results
|12/08 6:00 pm||Palmyra Northern Lebanon at Donegal||37 49|
|12/09 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Donegal||52 55|
|12/13 7:30 pm||Conrad Weiser at Northern Lebanon||59 67|
|12/15 7:30 pm||Annville-Cleona at Northern Lebanon||59 63|
|12/18 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Lebanon Catholic||80 36|
|12/20 7:30 pm||Columbia at Northern Lebanon||48 56|
|12/22 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Pequea Valley||83 45|
|12/27 7:30 pm||Daniel Boone at Northern Lebanon||55 66|
|12/28 7:30 pm||Penn Manor at Northern Lebanon||54 51|
|1/09 7:30 pm||Lancaster Mennonite at Northern Lebanon||62 63|
|1/11 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Lancaster Catholic||38 61|
|1/12 7:30 pm||Elco at Northern Lebanon||44 45|
|1/18 7:30 pm||Middletown at Northern Lebanon||71 61|
|1/19 7:30 pm||Lebanon Catholic at Northern Lebanon||35 76|
|1/20 2:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Tulpehocken||74 52|
|1/22 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Annville-Cleona||55 42|
|1/23 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Columbia||59 50|
|1/25 7:30 pm||Manheim Central at Northern Lebanon||40 43|
|1/26 7:30 pm||Pequea Valley at Northern Lebanon||23 67|
|1/30 7:30 pm||Lancaster Catholic at Northern Lebanon||55 54|
|2/02 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Lancaster Mennonite||43 66|
|2/06 7:30 pm||Northern Lebanon at Elco||43 56|
|2/12 7:00 pm||Northern Lebanon at Hempfield||41 58|
|2/19 7:00 pm||Elco at Northern Lebanon||65 74|
|2/22 7:00 pm||Northern Lebanon at Berks Catholic||34 52|
|2/26 5:00 pm||Boiling Springs Northern Lebanon at Lebanon||54 62|
|2/28 8:00 pm||Northern Lebanon Lancaster Catholic at Warwick|