FREDERICKSBURG – No matter the sport, no matter the pandemic, no matter the season, there absolutely, positively must be improvement.
Without improvement, there can be no hope. And without hope, there’s nothing.
High school varsity sports without improvement is called ‘intramurals’.
On Saturday evening at Northern Lebanon High school, the home-standing Vikings crushed Annville-Cleona 68-28, in a non-league battle of Lebanon County boys’ basketball teams desperately seeking improvement. Northern Lebanon floored the Little Dutchmen from the start and never allowed them to breathe or get their bearings.
The result snapped Northern Lebanon’s three-game losing skein and pushed it to 3-4 overall. With the setback, the Little Dutchmen fell to 0-4 on the year.
“I think we’re playing well,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Chris George. “We’ve gotten off to bad starts. We’ve been inconsistent. It’s been a little disappointing. We haven’t played bad, but it’s how it goes.
“It doesn’t matter the opponent, our guys need to see some good starts to games,” continued George. “We needed to have good feelings. I think we’re leaving here with a little more confidence.”
“Coach (George) has a good team,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Jason Coletti. “But we didn’t show up to play and compete. We’re young. We’ve been stressing competing, and we didn’t do that.
“We just have to get back into the gym and keep teaching,” Coletti continued. “Hopefully, we’ll see some progress soon. We’re starting games slowly. If we don’t improve, we’re going to keep getting blown out.”
Everything about last night’s outcome was predicated on the start.
Northern Lebanon never trailed after notching the first 14 points of the contest. While Northern Lebanon was holding Annville-Cleona score-less over the initial 6:32 of play, five different Vikings – Josh Clemmer, Owen Treadway, Aidan Zechman, Ian Herman and Simon Grimes were contributing points on the offensive end.
The first quarter ended with the Vikings up 25-5.
“Our defense was good,” said George. “For just as bad as we started the other night (in a loss to Elco), that’s how good we started tonight. It was all about the defense. We tried to stick to our script. We tried to play our style.
“Games like this don’t seem important, but it was really important to us,” added George. “We had lost three in-a-row. When you do your non-league games you try to schedule some games where you think you can have some success. We have a tough league schedule.”
“When you start off down 14-0, and when it doesn’t go your way, it can snow-ball on you,” said Coletti. “We just need to get some confidence. Young kids need confidence. We need some early success.”
Despite a couple of second-quarter baskets from Nick Malloy and a three-pointer by Yadiel Cruz, Annville-Cleona struggled to reduce its deficit below 20 points. And when Grimes scored a driving lay-in right before the half, the Vikings carried a 38-15 cushion to the locker room.
“Jason does an awesome job with his program,” said George. “They’re definitely in rebuild mode. When you get down, it’s easy to get sloppy. I told our guys, ‘Let’s keep playing. Let’s take good shots. You’ve got to learn to play with the lead.’ For our guys, just that experience was good.”
“We needed our seniors to step up,” said Coletti. “Yadiel (Cruz) is the only starter with varsity experience, and it’s tough when you’re the lone guy out there. We needed to have a successful play and build on it. Then when you get your third or fourth successful play, you’re on a roll.”
Grimes poured in 16 points to lead all scorers, while Wolfe contributed 13 points and Herman tallied 12. Ten different Vikings found their way into the scorebook.
Northern Lebanon outscored Annville-Cleona 40-12 on field goals inside the arc. The Vikings converted ten of their 15 free throw attempts, compared to the Little Dutchmen’s one-for-five shooting at the line.
“I think by sharing the ball, we take advantage of our depth,” said George. “I think we’re playing off our shooters. Instead of being an inside-outside team, we’re more outside-in. It’s how we’re constructed.”
“Northern Lebanon’s a good team,” said Coletti. “They’ve got some good shooters. They’re physical and they’re experienced.”
If the outcome wasn’t decided at halftime, Northern Lebanon made sure with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. Three points from Grimes, a couple of charity tosses by Herman, a Treadway lay-up and a three-point bomb by Wolfe added up to a 48-15 Viking advantage.
Northern Lebanon carried a 49-21 bulge into the final eight minutes of action.
“We’ve had a really tough schedule, but we’ve been playing well and our games have been close,” said George. “We played with some intensity tonight. Obviously, Annville-Cleona is young, and we have some pretty good experience. Everyone played well. Everyone got into the mix. I’ve been preaching to our guys about good habits. ‘Let’s keep our habits where they need to be’.”
“After our fourth game, we’ve got to re-assess our goals,” said Coletti. “At the beginning of the season we thought about the district playoffs and maybe the league playoffs. But now we have to set new goals. We didn’t have the typical three weeks of practice before the season, and that hurts a young team.”