BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Basketball is a game of runs, ebbs and flows, of momentum. But if a team doesn’t blink, never backs down and refuses to waver, well, that team becomes very difficult to beat.
The Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team plays every game like it’s its last.
On Monday night, in the first Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff game Northern Lebanon ever hosted, that spirit and resolve served the Vikings well, during a 47-41 overtime victory over Manheim Township. After the contest was tied at 36 at the end of regulation, and at 41 late in overtime, the Vikings notched the final six points of the extra session to win it.
The eventual winning points were scored by Viking Megan Brandt with 55 seconds remaining in OT, on an offensive rebound, a called foul and a liberal interpretation of the continuation rule. Though Brandt couldn’t complete the ‘and-one’, Northern Lebanon came up with the rebound, which eventually produced clinching free throws from Zoe Zerman and Liz Voight.
Another first – the Vikings’ initial league playoff triumph – propelled them into Thursday’s semifinal round of the tournament, opposite Section Four runner-up Lebanon Catholic, which nudged Ephrata 41-38, at 7 p.m. at Lebanon High School. Northern Lebanon, now 21-1 overall, beat the Beavers 47-36 on December 14 in Fredericksburg.
Regardless of that outcome, the Vikings will open the District Three Class AAA tournament on February 17th at home, against either Milton Hershey or Susquehanna Township, as the number-two seed.
Manheim Township, the runner-up from Section One, slipped to 15-8 on the year.
“It was a great game,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli through a sigh and a smile. “It wasn’t by any means pretty. It was two teams slugging it out. We played defense really, really, really hard. I thought to some degree we had them uncomfortable at the beginning. But they overcame it with their length. We just had to go around them.
“The thing is, they (the Blue Streaks) wanted it as bad as us,” continued Battistelli. “They were tough, but they were three inches bigger than us and 20 pounds heavier. Our kids had their motors on the whole time. I’m sure they will be very tired tonight. It was just a battle.”
Blue Streak Caitlin Hickey had sent the game to overtime on a lay-in with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, after the Vikings’ delay game had run 2:13 off the fourth-quarter clock, produced a Zerman free throw and a 36-34 lead, with 25 ticks to go. Manheim Township had taken its first lead of the game a minute earlier, courtesy of a Hickey three-pointer, before Brandt responded with an inside move for the Vikes.
Northern Lebanon grabbed a 31-26 lead a minute-and-a-half into the final quarter, thanks to a trey from Voight. But the Vikings went cold over the next 2:39.
“I’ve been seeing them do this all year long,” said Battistelli of his troops’ supreme effort. “Tonight it might have gone to another level. We really got some good offensive rebounds.
“This is one of these teams, if a ball is rolling on the floor, my kids are going to get it,” Battistelli continued. “Don’t big people get more tired than little people? I’ve got to believe there’s a little magic involved.”
Another one of those offensive rebounds came from Cassiah Ray, with two seconds left in the third period, and stick-back gave the Vikings’ a 28-24 margin. Earlier in the quarter, a Voight three-pointer had pushed Northern Lebanon’s lead to 241-8.
“No, I don’t think this was an upset,” said Battistelli. “I think the kids absorb more than I want them to. They know they’re (the Blue Streaks) Section One. But the moment the ball went up in the air, I don’t think I saw intimidation or any feeling of being underdogs.
“The goal was Manheim Township,” Battistelli added. “I’m trying, with every ounce I can muster, not to think about anything. We’re in the playoffs and that’s awesome. We think we can win it. You never know. We’d love to find ourselves in a game they call ‘championship’.”
Brandt and Zerman paced the Viking attack with 14 points apiece, while Voight tossed in 13 points that included a trio of three-pointers. The smaller Vikings out rebounded the taller Blue Streaks by a whopping margin of 42-23, as Brandt hauled down 15 boards and Amber Kintzer collected 13 caroms.
“I thought this would be a difficult game for us to score,” said Battistelli. “We got more offensive rebounds, and we needed them, because we weren’t shooting well. But you could go down our lineup and pat each one of our kids on the back and thank them for what they did to help us win.
“Obviously we scouted each other,” added Battistelli. “We prepared. We prepared for what they do. But we didn’t have gimmicks for them, and they didn’t have gimmicks for us.”
The Vikings netted five unanswered points in the middle of the second stanza to extend a two-point edge to 14-7. Zerman scored on a driving lay-in, Voight worked inside for a deuce, then later canned a free throw.
“It was electric,” said Battistelli of the sold-out atmosphere. “For these kids, it might be hard to be timid with the roar behind them. I was screaming at a kid ten feet in front of me and she didn’t hear me. That’s brutal. That’s a good excuse to ignore your coach. It was awesome. The kids (student section) were here. My friends were here. Teachers were here.”
Zerman tallied Northern Lebanon’s first six points, but it was a bucket from Brandt and a foul shot from Voight that were responsible for the Vikings’ 9-5, first-quarter lead.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it,” said Battistelli, of the continuation call on Brandt’s crucial OT basket. “When I heard the whistle, I thought we were going to the line for two (free throws). When I heard the whistle, I stopped looking. That was a massive turning point. I don’t know if it was a good call or a bad call, but she earned it.”
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2015-16 Northern Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Results
|7:00 PM||W 64-23|
|7:00 PM||W 39-28|
|7:30 PM||W 47-15|
|7:30 PM||W 53-35|
|7:30 PM||W 47-36|
|7:30 PM||W 52-18|
|7:30 PM||W 57-39|
|7:30 PM||W 55-46|
|7:30 PM||W 44-35|
|4:00 PM||W 44-20|
|6:00 PM||W 26-10|
|7:30 PM||W 51-34|
|7:30 PM||W 56-23|
|7:30 PM||W 53-24|
|7:30 PM||L 49-53|
|7:30 PM||W 53-40|
|4:30 PM||W 49-27|
|7:30 PM||W 42-32|
|7:30 PM||W 47-35|
|7:30 PM||W 56-32|
|7:30 PM||W 40-32|
|7:30 PM||W 39-26|
|7:00 PM||W 47-41|
|7:00 PM||Lebanon High School|
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