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BY JEFF FALK

SHAMOKIN – Take away the first step, defensively.

Box out on rebounds.

Get the ball into Zara Zerman’s hands and allow her to create offense.

The Northern Lebanon girls know only one way to play basketball – with their feet, with their heads and with their hearts.

When the Vikings are playing their game, they’re extremely tough to beat. If they’re not, you’ve got a chance.

And if you’ve never seen it before, well …

On Wednesday night at Shamokin High School, Northern Lebanon introduced Danville to its style of basketball, through a 48-37 victory, in the second round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs. The Vikings established a working margin late in the first quarter, then played extremely smart with the lead.

With the result, Northern Lebanon, the third-place finisher out of District Three, stretched its overall record to 24-4 and became one of the last eight Class AAAA squads in the state still standing. Up next for the Vikings will be a quarterfinal match-up on Saturday against familar foe Lancaster Catholic, which bested Southmoreland 64-56, at a site and time to be announced.

Northern Lebanon also ran its postseason record to 5-2.

With the loss, Danville, the champions of Section Four, ended its campaign at 25-4.

“I have heard from our coaching staff that it’s no fun,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli of the challenges the Vikes present to opponents. “We try to do the little things that are legal and effective, but that are no fun. It’s no fun playing against a defender who’s going to box you out every time. It’s work, and our kids do like to work. That means we’re playing really hard and really well.

“We try to prepare for the team we’re playing,” added Battistelli. “We understand what works and what doesn’t work. We wanted to take advantage of what we knew.”

“In our league, we know teams don’t like to play against us,” said Zerman, the Vikings’ senior guard. “Now, teams watch film on us. But it’s different in person. I think we play really good defense and we box our on every possession.”

The Vikings tallied the final three buckets of the opening quarter to establish a 12-6 cushion. Lindsay McFeaters worked inside for a couple of buckets and Zerman scored on a driving lay-in.

“I don’t think this was an upset,” said Battistelli. “I believe Danville is a very good team. But I think we’re good too. I told the kids before the game, ‘Whoever executes will win the game.’ It was a good game between two 20-win teams. It was physical. Bodies were flying.”

“I thought we played really well,” said Zerman. “We followed the game plan. We knew their defense was a match-up. But we adjusted.”

The Ironmen recorded the first two baskets of the second stanza to slice Northern Lebanon’s lead to a single possession. But courtesy of six points from Zerman and an Emily Hauck lay-in, the Vikings pieced together an 8-3 spurt that gave them a 20-13 advantage.

Northern Lebanon led 22-16 at the break.

“We’re a tough team to come back on because of the way we play defense and handle the ball,” said Battistelli. “We talked about not wanting to come from behind against this team. For the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job of getting shots against them. With that defense, you do give up some position. That was one advantage we could play to.”

“It’s getting me out of track (workouts),” said Zerman, with a smile. “No, we don’t want it to end. We want to win. We want to be the best. We all enjoy each other. We all like each other.”

On five deuces, a pair of treys and eight-for-ten free throwing, Zerman tallied 24 points to lead all scorers. McFeaters contributed 14 points to the Northern Lebanon cause.

Overall, the Vikings made 13 of their 16 foul shots and outscored Danville by eight points at the foul line.

“She’s a special kid,” said Battistelli of Zerman. “This team looks to her for leadership, and she rarely leaves us down. She’s rock solid. The other kids follow the game plan. We thought they (the Ironmen) were much more dangerous driving to the rim than shooting jumpers.”

“Especially since last year, I’m more calm,” said Zerman. “I make better decisions. But in every game, I learn something new.”

On buckets from Rachel Papson and Zerman, the Vikings established three different eight-point leads during the third quarter. And when Zerman and Ashlyn Messinger drained back-to-back three-pointers, Northern Lebanon carried a 34-25 cushion into the final period.

“When they made runs at us, we had to stay calm and do what we do,” said Battistelli. “We told them (his players), ‘Not only does this team go fast in transition, they’re smart in it.’ They’re (the Ironmen) a good strong team. It was a tough physical game.”

The closest Danville could come in the fourth quarter was 38-33, 4:14 into it. But with Zerman, McFeaters and Hauck going a combined eight-for-ten from the charity stripe, the Vikings outcored the Ironmen 10-4 the rest of the way.

“It’s been a terribly long year,” said Battistelli. “I’m beat up, old and tired. But when I walk into the locker room, they’re (his players) joyous. As long as they’re joyous, we’ll put together the best game plan we can. We had two really good practices this week, and at this stage of the season, that’s amazing. And I’m no picnic.”

“Yeah, I guess,” said Zerman, when asked if she had thought about the next game, but not mentioning Lancaster Catholic by name. “I think we’re ready. I think Coach will have a good game plan. We can watch film, look at our mistakes, make adjustments and be prepared. We’ll have a lot more fight in us this time.”

During the regular season, Lancaster Catholic defeated Northern Lebanon twice. The Crusaders prevailed 50-47 in overtime in Fredericksburg on January 3rd, then posted a 42-35 triumph in Lancaster on January 21st.

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

2019-20 Northern Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Results

DateOpponentsOutcomes
12/06
6:45 pm
Ephrata
Northern Lebanon
at Northern Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament
43
48

Nonleague
12/07
7:00 pm
Palmyra
Northern Lebanon
at Northern Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament
29
41

Nonleague
12/10
7:30 pm
West Perry
at Northern Lebanon
19
35

Nonleague
12/13
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lampeter-Strasburg
38
26
League
12/16
7:30 pm
Cocalico
at Northern Lebanon
31
37

League
12/18
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Garden Spot
48
17

League
12/20
7:30 pm
Solanco
at Northern Lebanon
19
35

League
12/27
6:00 pm
New Oxford
Northern Lebanon
at Lebanon Holiday Tournament
27
45

Nonleague
12/28
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
McCaskey
at Lebanon Holiday Tournament
44
41

Nonleague
1/03
7:30 pm
Lancaster Catholic
at Northern Lebanon
50
47

League
1/04
2:30 pm
East Pennsboro
Northern Lebanon
at Northern Lebanon Middle School
22
44

Nonleague
1/08
6:30 pm
Middletown
at Northern Lebanon
15
38

Nonleague
1/10
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco
53
45

League
1/14
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Octorara
54
17

League
1/17
7:30 pm
Donegal
at Northern Lebanon
39
65

League
1/18
2:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Tulpehocken
Postponed
Nonleague
1/21
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lancaster Catholic
35
42

League
1/23
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Manheim Central
47
35

League
1/25
4:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Annville-Cleona
47
12

Nonleague
1/28
7:30 pm
Elco
at Northern Lebanon
35
37

League
1/31
7:30 pm
Octorara
at Northern Lebanon
30
59

League
2/04
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Donegal
60
46

League
2/06
7:30 pm
Northern Lebanon
Warwick
at Garden Spot
43
32

Playoff
2/08
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Solanco
32
41

Playoff
2/21
7:00 pm
Bishop McDevitt
at Northern Lebanon
45
60

Playoff
2/25
7:00 pm
Eastern York
at Northern Lebanon
51
28

Playoff
2/27
7:00 pm
Susquehanna Township
at Northern Lebanon
28
33

Playoff
3/07
1:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
Universal Audenried Charter
at Cardinal O’Hara
52
29

Playoff
3/11
6:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
Danville
at Shamokin High School

Playoff

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