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 IMG_8489BY JEFF FALK

DENVER – Sometimes when humans are going places they’ve never been before, we get lost.

But the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team has never had trouble taking the road less traveled. Besides, the Vikings always seem to find their way, anyway.

On Monday night, Northern Lebanon looked very comfortable and familiar with ground it had never navigated before, as it handled Cocalico 55-46 in a battle for first place, between a couple of unbeatens. The Vikings gained control of the outcome with an 18-4 run through the second period, and then did everything necessary to secure the win.

IMG_8474With the triumph, the Vikings improved to 8-0 on the year and 5-0 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. The 8-0 start represents Northern Lebanon’s best in recent memory, and ranks as one of the best in program history.

The loss dropped Cocalico to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the circuit.

“It was just intense focus,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli. “They (his players) were really in a good place to play this game. It’s immense because we match up poorly against Cocalico. We aren’t strong in areas that they are. Maybe I have to start believing we’re OK. Tonight, we did not come out skittish.

IMG_8559“When we were at team camp (over the summer), we had a really, really good camp,” continued Battistelli. “I remember watching other teams and talking with my brother about how big and strong they were, and how good they were. And we won almost all of those games. These kids aren’t kids any more. No seniors, but they have a lot of miles on them. Those bruises have made them stronger.”

Facing early 5-0 and 7-2 deficits, the the more athletic Vikings got things headed in the right direction late in the opening quarter, by picking up the intensity on the defense end and getting out on in the open floor. Northern Lebanon embarked on a 12-2 journey that gave it seven-point cushion.

Junior guard Zoe Zerman sparked the burst with a couple of free throws, and junior Megan Brandt finished it with a pair of foul shots that made it 18-11, 4:41 before the break. In between, Amber Kintzer worked her way inside for a couple of buckets, Zerman converted an inbound look and Brandt scored inside.

But the Vikings weren’t through.

IMG_8562Northern Lebanon ended the first half with a 10-2 run to carry a 28-15 advantage to the break. Zerman collected four of those points on a trey and a foul shot, Kintzer laid in a deuce, Brandt stroked a jumper and Liz Voight used her left hand in traffic.

“I think my team plays hard,” said Battistelli. “We played five kids tonight and they didn’t get tired. You always want the lead. But it’s not always easy to keep the lead against teams with talented scorers.

“We’re always bad in the first quarter,” continued Battistelli. “Actually, we didn’t struggle as much tonight as we usually do. We were in the game after the first quarter. That’s (the second) our quarter to score. Our sophomores are starting to trust themselves.”

IMG_8481Zerman, who ran the show all evening, poured in a game-high 31 points on seven field goals and 16-for-20 free throwing. Brandt complemented her with 16 points.

The Vikings converted 26 of their 30 foul shots. Northern Lebanon used only five players, and four of them scored points.

“She’s like the force of wealth,” said Battistelli of Zerman. “When you look at her, it sums up the way we want to be. She symbolizes what we try to be. Offensively, it’s a lot hard to be confident. Offensively, she’s got the courage to be herself or to be the leader. She wants that pressure. And Megan (Brandt) is starting to feel the same way.

“Tonight our sophomores played like Vikings, not sophomores,” added Battistelli. “They’re past the level where it’s not just talent. Hopefully they’re becoming winners.”

IMG_8443With five minutes remaining, and protecting a 42-35 advantage, the Vikings decided to go to their four-corner offense. Cocalico did pulled to within 43-38, two minutes later, but Zerman and Brandt combined to drain 12 straight free throws  – and 17 of 18 – to end the game.

“I have no idea why, but our team loves it,” said Battistelli of the decision to go four corners, at that particular junction of the contest. “They really enjoy doing it. When we first started it, it was because Zoe had foul trouble. The fact that we normally do so well with it made the decision easier.

IMG_8523“The thing about Zoe, she wants the ball when the pressure is on,” Battistelli added. “If there’s foul shots to be made, she wants to be on the line. They’re (Zerman and Brandt) a pretty good duo.”

When Voight canned two foul shots a minute into the final stanza, the Vikings still had most of their halftime margin, up 40-29. But Northern Lebanon suffered through a three-minute scoring drought in the middle of the  fourth quarter, during which the Eagles moved to within two possessions of the lead.

“I’m really proud of them,” said Battistelli of his troops. “It’s a really nice place to be in. God-willing, if we could get one more (win), it would make it a great Christmas.”

Last night represented Northern Lebanon’s closest victory to date, and also the most points the Vikings have allowed.

 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_8447Lancaster-Lebanon League  Section Three Standings

TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
Northern Lebanon 5-0 8-0
Cocalico 4-1 6-1
Donegal 4-1 6-2
Lampeter-Strasburg 3-2 4-4
Elco 2-3 3-3
Manheim Central 2-3 3-6

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_84612015-16 Northern Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Schedule

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
Date OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
12/23 *
Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/05 *
@Elco
7:30 PM Elco High School
01/08 *
Manheim Central
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/11
Annville-Cleona
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/13
@Lancaster Catholic
7:30 PM Lancaster Catholic High School
01/15
Columbia
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/16
@Hamburg
4:30 PM Hamburg High School
01/19 *
@Donegal
7:30 PM Donegal High School
01/22 *
Cocalico
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
01/25 *
@Lampeter-Strasburg
7:30 PM Lampeter-Strasburg High School
01/28 *
Elco
7:30 PM Northern Lebanon High School
02/02 *
@Manheim Central
7:30 PM Manheim Central High School

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