BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – It’s called ‘applied learning’. There’s not really much point to taking your lumps if you’re not going to get a chance to dole a few out.
Right now, the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team is benefiting from a little classical conditioning.
On Wednesday night, the Vikings’ learning curve continued on an upward flow, as they bounced Tulpehocken 39-27 in a non-league affair on their home floor. After absorbing the Trojans’ best blow in the third quarter, the Vikings used an unrelenting ball-control delay game to hold the Trojans scoreless over the final 6:06 of play.
Following a 6-16 campaign, now 2-1 Northern Lebanon appears well on its way to enjoying a more successful season this year. The result dropped Tulpehocken to 1-2.
“I think we’re going to be in this situation a whole lot,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli. “I think we have a nice team, but we don’t have a lot of experience. They (his players) don’t have a lot of winning experience, a lot of varsity experience. As our kids get smarter, things will go better. Tonight we got out to a lead, and we had to find a way to hold it.
“We learned tons from last year,” Battistelli continued. “At the end of the season, we were a lot like we are now. We beat Lampeter-Strasburg in our last game and I told the girls, ‘We didn’t end our season with a win. We started a winning streak for next year.’ We’re trying to convince these kids we’re supposed to be the alpha predator. That’s the way we want them thinking.”
After surrendering most of a 14-point bulge, Northern Lebanon employed a time-consuming weave at the top of the circle to protect an early-fourth-quarter 31-27 lead. The final eight points of the game were posted by Vikings Zoe Zerman and Morgan Phillips, mostly from the charity stripe.
“The kids love to run that game offense,” said Battistelli. “First of all, Zoe loves it. Mo (Phillips) likes it. (Megan) Brandt likes it. Whenever the game is late you want to put the ball in the hand of your point guard (Zerman), and tell her to take you home. That’s really what we try to do all of the time – put kids in positions where they can feel good about themselves.”
Northern Lebanon seemed poised to turn the affair into a blow out 24 seconds into the second half, when Phillips knocked down a jumper to put her side ahead 27-13. But that would prove to be the Vikings’ last points of the third quarter, as the Trojans crashed the offensive glass and rattled off ten straight to move to within 27-23 of Northern Lebanon.
Ultimately, the Trojans closed to 29-26, before Northern Lebanon spread them out.
“We have a lot of kids who like to pass the ball,” said Battistelli. “What we try to emphasize is that if you want to pass the ball you’ve to look to score first. It’s a mentality. At the end of the game, a sophomore and a freshman were holding the ball for us, making decisions and running the clock out. But ultimately you hit the shot you’re used to hitting.
“It was a little bit schizophrenic – if that’s the right word,” Battistelli continued. “It was a chaotic game. We settled for jumpers in the third quarter, Brandt got in foul trouble and they (the Trojans) went on a run. We’re learning. Right now, I’m just glad we’re learning and winning, and not learning and losing.”
The Vikings clicked on all cylinders during a 17-point second quarter in which they extended an 8-7 edge to a dozen points.
Northern Lebanon opened the stanza on an 11-1 burst, and assumed a 19-8 advantage on a short jumper from Marissa Yingst, 3:41 before the break. The Vikings also finished the half strong, in the form of a Zerman drive with four seconds remaining that gave them a 25-13 lead in the locker room.
“We have a pretty youthful lineup, and at times it takes a little time to settle in against that defense,” said Battistelli. “It took a little while to probe it. But I don’t know exactly led to the nervousness in the third quarter.”
In addition to her ball handling chores, Zerman struck for 17 points, while Phillips registered 12. The Vikings’ man-to-man defense limited Tulpehocken to a total of nine field goals and eight-for-19 free throwing.
“For stretches, I thought we played it really well,” said Battistelli of his squad’s defense. “But for stretches, not as much. I consider rebounding part of our defense, and they (the Trojans) were able to get offensive rebounds, and that concerns me. When our principals were bad, it led to fouls and helped their run.”
Northern Lebanon will open play in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League on Friday by hosting Pequea Valley in a crossover affair.
LEBANON SPORTS BUZZ
Lebanon County Girls’ Basketball Preseason Rankings
2. Cedar Crest
3. Lebanon High
5. Northern Lebanon
7. Lebanon Catholic