BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Looking at the blueprints, the project appeared to be a total renovation, complete with a new foundation and framing. But general contractor Ken Battistelli insists it’s just a remodeling job, that the structure is sound and the needed improvements are merely cosmetic in nature.
While the Vikings might not be ready to move in just yet, the project does appear to be ahead of schedule.
On Friday night, the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team’s rebuilding plan continued to progress, as the growing Vikings nudged Manheim Central 33-28 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three throw-down. The Vikings took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, then displayed the poise of a more seasoned club in holding it down the stretch.
The win was just the second of the year for a Northern Lebanon club which features five new starters and three freshmen playing major roles. The Vikings are now 2-5 overall and 2-2 in Section Three, while Manheim Central dipped to 3-5 on the year and 2-2 in the circuit.
“I don’t want to call it rebuilding because I don’t think it’s fair to the juniors,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli. “And I’m not doing my job if I let the freshmen fail without pressure. I told the girls before the game, ‘The season starts here. You go out and you’ve got to win’. I’m a pusher. But I think the girls want to be pushed and they want to excel.
“We have three kids who can really score in bunches,” continued Battistelli. “And the kids who don’t score know their roles. This team’s anxiety is something I have to worry about. If people concentrate on the things they’re good at, everything else will take care of itself. That’s the only team this team is short on, confidence and experience.”
Northern Lebanon tallied eight of the first ten points in the final quarter to turn a tie score into a 30-24 margin. Morgan ‘Mo’ Phillips capped the outburst with a dagger of a three-pointer, after freshmen Megan Brandt and Double-Z, Zoe Zerman had converted strong moves to the hole and Hannah Reese had knocked down a charity toss.
Over the next three minutes, the Vikings went three-for-five at the foul line.
“I thought we didn’t have our best game,” said Battistelli. “We had been playing pretty good on offense, but they (the Barons) took us out of what we wanted to do. They threw Zoe off. They threw Megan off. Defensively we played well, but we relied on our mental toughness and that’s amazing for as young as we are.
“I worry about it (the record) more than the kids because I think winning is contagious and losing is contagious,” Battistelli continued. “I don’t think the kids have the self doubt which comes from an inexperienced team. I told them, ‘if we out score them in the second half we have a good chance to win.’ It feels great to have their effort produce a win.”
Phillips knocked down a trio of three-point field goals and showed the way for the Vikings scorers with 11 points. Scintillating ninth-graders Zerman and Brandt evenly split 16 Northern Lebanon points.
Manheim Central connected on just one free throw all evening long.
“Zoe has had games where she’s been dominant,” said Battistelli. “Megan is so darn smart, but she has to grow into that lanky body. They just want to listen. If I tell them not to score, they won’t get mad.
“I really truly believe it comes from inexperience,” added Battistelli. “We’ve lost several games because of surprises or changes in a game’s atmosphere. We played a great game against Annville-Cleona, and got outscored 20-4 in the second quarter. On the flip side, our defense was strong enough. We were in trouble at halftime. I don’t think anyone out there felt comfortable. But they stuck with it and battled.”
The only time the Vikings really struggled all night was in the second period, when they were outscored 14-7. And that came on the heels of a pretty good start.
With its man-to-man defense forcing turnovers, Northern Lebanon ran out to a 9-2 lead. Zerman had six of those points, while Phillips drained a trey.
But in the second quarter, the Barons’ full court pressure got to the Vikings, who also forgot to box out on the defensive end. The result was a five-minute Northern Lebanon scoring drought and an 18-14 Manheim Central lead.
“I think they (the Barons) did a good job of mixing things up,” said Battistelli. “Change is difficult for a young team, and they did a great job of taking away our point guard’s (Zerman) strength. They put her in a tough spot, and the burden fell to the other kids. I thought our ferocity on the glass in the second half was great, and we made some foul shots down the stretch.
“We had a (defensive) game plan because of the players they have and the offense they run,” Battistelli added. “We stuck to it. They (his players) were concentrating on what we wanted to do. They try so hard to do what the coaching staff tells them. We’re not a bad team, and we have no right being a good team.”