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IMG_1640BY JEFF FALK

FREDERICKSBURG – If one didn’t know better, he or she might think the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team is practiced at celebrating championships. But if a team has worked as hard and as long as the Vikings have, well some things just come naturally.

On Thursday night, the Vikings celebrated their first Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championship in 30 years, following the hard-fought 40-32 home victory over rival Elco that clinched it. After the contest was tied on two different occasions in the second half, Northern Lebanon discovered – or manufactured – a way to win down the stretch.

IMG_1583As Section Three champions, Northern Lebanon, now 20-1 overall and 14-1 in the circuit, will compete in next month’s Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. The Vikings are also rated fourth in the latest District Three Class AAA power rankings.

Needless to say, the Vikings are closing in on one of the finest girls’ basketball seasons in school history.

As for the Raiders, they are now 11-7 on the season, 8-6 in Section Three and seated 14th in those same District Three Class AAA rankings. Back on January 5th in Myerstown, Elco had fallen to the Vikings by a 51-34 count.

“It’s immense,” said Northern Lebanon’s animated head coach Ken Battistelli, through a glow. “There’s so much that this win represents. For the kids, it puts a permanent mark on an incredible season. This puts a stamp on the fact that we are champs of a very good section. I hope all my former players consider it their championship as well, because they laid the foundation for it.

IMG_1618“I do feel a tremendous amount of accomplishment,” continued Battistelli. “It feels like I did something here. It’s amazing at this little school how many people care about this basketball team. They love them, and I love them. For me to know that this team will be champions for the rest of their lives, it fills me with so much joy.”

“I thought we played hard. We never gave up,” said Elco head coach Ashli Shay, gracious in defeat. “We gave them a good game. That’s a really good team over there. They’re mentally and physically tough. We made some runs at them, but they didn’t blink. They (the Vikings) have come such a long way What they have done here is nothing short of amazing.

“I think what sets them (the Vikings) apart is their mental and physical toughness,” Shay continued. “That’s the one thing they display ever minute of every game. They crash the boards extremely hard. When you can’t make a team give in, it makes it tough on you. I think that’s the difference between them and every other team we’ve played this year.”

IMG_1779After Northern Lebanon had missed the front ends of three consecutive one-and-ones, Elco knotted the score at 30, with 1:23 remaining, on a tough inside move from freshman Ryelle Shuey. But in the closing seconds, the Vikings went ten-for-ten at the charity stripe, thanks to the shooting of Zoe Zerman, Cassiah Ray and Liz Voight.

“Oh my gosh, it was terrible early on,” said Battistelli of his side’s free throwing. “That’s where you could see the anxiety. The kids understood the gravity of the situation, and that’s not easy. But down the stretch, when we had to have them, they made them.

IMG_1645“I would say we played fairly poorly,” Battistelli added. “But we play so hard. At this point, I don’t think there’s any question that we have five kids who believe in themselves and each other. They just find a way. Elco played savagely. They took things away from us. But in the end, our kids just find a way.”

“They knocked down their foul shots, which is huge,” said Shay of the Vikings. “It comes back to that mental toughness. It’s just little mental errors for us. We’ve got to grow through them.”

Amber Kintzer gave Northern Lebanon a 22-16 margin early in the second half, but it would prove to be the Vikings’ last bucket over the next two-and-a-half minutes. During that span, the Raiders got four points from Shuey and a pair of foul shots from Julia Nelson to knot the score at 22.

IMG_1713Back came Northern Lebanon, in the form of an 8-0 run that featured a trey by Voight, three points by Megan Brandt and a couple of free throws by Zerman. Elco’s answer was an 8-0 burst of its own, one fronted by a Taylor Bossert trey and three points from Alexis Thomas.

“I don’t know if ‘better’ is the right word,” said Battistelli. “I thought they (the Raiders) left everything out there. They have good athletes. They have super coaching. I think we were the beneficiary of the snow-ball effect. It’s pretty astonishing when I can trust any one of those kids to take an important shot. That’s how much confidence we have in players one through five.

“Our defense wasn’t perfect tonight,” Battistelli continued. “That has a lot to do with anxiety. The thing about our defense was that it was hard. It came hard for four quarters. That motor of their’s just doesn’t stop. When you play defense like we do for four quarters, it’s hard on a team.”

IMG_1697“It would’ve been that signature type of win for us, when you’re looking to boost your momentum,” said Shay. “I’m proud of the way we competed. The effort was there. If we give that effort the rest of the season, we should be in good shape.

“But things like mental errors killed us in the second half,” Shay added. “I think what hurt us in the first half was their rebounding.”

Voight netted 11 points to spearhead the Vikings’ balanced attack, while Shuey popped for a game-high 14. Elco connected on nine of its ten foul shots, but was outscored by six points there.

IMG_1789“We haven’t played great every game, but we have played hard every game,” said Battistelli. “We’ve shown up every game, and the bigger the game, the harder we play. That’s what makes this team remarkable. It seems like this season has flown by. They’re (his players) interested in what the coaches have to say. Every day, they try the best for us.”

“Anybody who has seen her play any sport knows how competitive of a kid she is,” said Shay of Shuey. “In big moments, she seems to rise to the occasion. She really is a tough kid. When she gets a head of steam, she’s tough to stop.

“They’re (the Vikings) so physically tough, and they get to the basket so well,” Shay continued. “Zerman has done such a great job of extending her range. You used to be able to sag off of her. But she has shown she can hit the ‘three’.”

IMG_1662The Raiders notched six of the game’s first eight points and grabbed a 6-2 lead, courtesy of a couple of free throws from Nelson, three minutes in. But Northern Lebanon turned the defensive screws to Elco and held it without a point over the next 10:19.

The resulting 13-0 Viking run included five points by Ray, four points from Kintzer, three by Zerman and one from Voight, and led to a 15-6 Northern Lebanon lead. But the Raiders ended the half with free throws from Nelson and a hard ‘take’ by Shuey.

“I’ve always thought highly of the teams I’ve had,” said Battistelli. “But this group has a knack. How can you play 21 games and not come out in a mood not ready to play? This group is remarkable. But I’d like to thank my former players for making this possible. I don’t know what this team is capable of in the future, but right now they’re champions. And I couldn’t be prouder.”

IMG_1707“Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the year because we’re so young,” said Shay. “Four of our top six players are 15-year-olds. But they have played older than they are. We couldn’t be happier with the effort. They haven’t quit. We gave some tough teams some tough games. That says a lot about a young team.

“Every game right now has district implications,” continued Shay. “We’d like to move ourselves up in the district rankings. Everyone wants to play the role of spoiler. Tonight, they were the better team. But every game is important to us.”

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to see more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-ten/.

 

 

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IMG_1635Lancaster-Lebanon League

 Section Three Standings

TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
Northern Lebanon 14-1 20-1
Cocalico 11-3 15-3
Lampeter-Strasburg 9-6 12-9
Elco 8-6 11-7
Donegal 5-9 7-12
Manheim Central 3-11 4-14

 

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IMG_17302015-16 Northern Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Results

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
12/04 #
Dover
7:00 PM W 64-23
12/05 #
Palmyra
7:00 PM W 39-28
12/07
@Tulpehocken
7:30 PM W 47-15
12/11 *
@Pequea Valley
7:30 PM W 53-35
12/14 *
Lebanon Catholic
7:30 PM W 47-36
12/16 *
@Lancaster Mennonite
7:30 PM W 52-18
12/18 *
Donegal
7:30 PM W 57-39
12/21 *
@Cocalico
7:30 PM W 55-46
12/23 *
Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM W 44-35
12/28 #
@Halifax
4:00 PM W 44-20
12/29 #
@Littlestown
6:00 PM W 26-10
01/05 *
@Elco
7:30 PM W 51-34
01/08 *
Manheim Central
7:30 PM W 56-23
01/11 *
Annville-Cleona
7:30 PM W 53-24
01/13 *
@Lancaster Catholic
7:30 PM L 49-53
01/15 *
Columbia
7:30 PM W 53-40
01/16
@Hamburg
4:30 PM W 49-27
01/19 *
@Donegal
7:30 PM W 42-32
01/21 *
Cocalico
7:30 PM W 47-35
01/27 *
@Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM W 56-32
01/28 *
Elco
7:30 PM W 40-32
DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
02/02 *
@Manheim Central
7:30 PM Manheim Central High School

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IMG_16862015-16 Elco Girls’ Basketball Results

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
12/09
@Conestoga Valley
7:30 PM W 50-34
12/11 *
@Lebanon Catholic
7:30 PM W 45-42
12/14 *
Columbia
7:30 PM W 55-29
12/16 *
@Lancaster Catholic
7:30 PM L 27-70
12/18 *
Cocalico
7:30 PM L 49-56
12/21 *
@Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM L 41-48
12/23 *
@Manheim Central
7:30 PM W 47-35
12/28 #
@Blue Mountain
3:00 PM L 37-57
12/29
@Donegal
3:00 PM W 59-33
01/05 *
Northern Lebanon
7:30 PM L 34-51
01/08 *
@Donegal
7:30 PM W 46-42
01/09
Middletown
6:00 PM W 64-54
01/11 *
Pequea Valley
7:30 PM W 66-43
01/13 *
@Annville-Cleona
7:30 PM W 40-37
01/15 *
Lancaster Mennonite
7:30 PM W 66-30
01/19 *
@Cocalico
7:30 PM L 44-50
01/22 *
Lampeter-Strasburg
4:00 PM W 55-40
01/28 *
@Northern Lebanon
7:30 PM L 32-40
DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
01/29 *
Manheim Central
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/30
Hamburg
2:30 PM Elco High School
02/02 *
Donegal
7:30 PM Elco High School
02/04
@Conrad Weiser
7:30 PM Conrad Weiser High School

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IMG_1728PIAA District Three  Class AAA Power Rankings

AAA School  W  L  T  Rating
1 Berks Catholic 13- 3- 0  0.783838
2 Susquehannock 17- 2- 0  0.750395
3 Boiling Springs 16- 2- 0  0.746844
4 Northern Lebanon 18- 1- 0  0.746260
5 Greencastle Antrim 14- 1- 0  0.736820
6 York Suburban 16- 3- 0  0.727932
7 Bishop McDevitt 13- 5- 0  0.724222
8 Lancaster Catholic 16- 1- 0  0.722773
9 Fleetwood 13- 3- 0  0.704953
10 Conrad Weiser 11- 6- 0  0.693282
11 West York 12- 5- 0  0.672508
12 West Perry 14- 5- 0  0.670382
13 Susquenita 14- 3- 0  0.648744
14 Eastern Lebanon County 11- 6- 0  0.633879
15 Twin Valley 11- 7- 0  0.610308
16 Lampeter Strasburg 11- 9- 0  0.595735
17 Milton Hershey 10- 6- 0  0.581749
18 Middletown 10- 9- 0  0.568819
19 Susquehanna Township 6- 12- 0  0.542168
20 James Buchanan 7- 9- 0  0.526264
21 Big Spring 8- 11- 0  0.521361
22 Donegal 7- 11- 0  0.519168
23 Eastern York 6- 12- 0  0.507103
24 Littlestown 8- 8- 0  0.499917
25 East Pennsboro 6- 11- 0  0.499240
26 Gettysburg 6- 11- 0  0.486534
27 Dover 6- 14- 0  0.465935
28 Kennard Dale 6- 13- 0  0.441239
29 Pequea Valley 7- 12- 0  0.432082
30 Northern York 5- 13- 0  0.418491
31 Northeastern 4- 13- 0  0.414071
32 Schuylkill Valley 5- 13- 0  0.402079
33 Bermudian Springs 6- 13- 0  0.398752
34 Manheim Central 4- 12- 0  0.393787
35 Hamburg 3- 15- 0  0.380743

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