Elco s Cheyenne Hassler makes a move against Northern Lebanon s Taylor Smith on Friday night in Myerstown. Hassler was one of three Raiders to hit for
Elco s Cheyenne Hassler makes a move against Northern Lebanon s Taylor Smith on Friday night in Myerstown. Hassler was one of three Raiders to hit for double figures in the Elco win. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
MYERSTOWN - The Elco girls' basketball program celebrated a portion of its glory days on Friday night, honoring the highly-decorated 1996-97 and 1997-98 teams at halftime of its Section Three clash with county rival Northern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Raiders of today showed the standouts from the past who returned that they've got a little something in common with them.

Not in terms of overall skill and ability to seamlessly execute a game plan. But in terms of defensive intensity and killer instinct, Elco girls' basketball circa 2012-13 did itself and the "old heads" from yesteryear rather proud.

Smothering a jittery Northern Lebanon squad with pressure defense throughout the first half, Elco forced a whopping 17 turnovers before intermission and jumped out to a 26-13 halftime lead that would become a critically important 44-33 win in front of the home folks.

Now 6-5 overall and 3-3 in Section Three, the Raiders kept themselves in the hunt in the wide-open section race with Friday's win, while the Vikings (7-4, 4-2 Section Three) took a step backwards on the heels of a gritty victory over Garden Spot on Wednesday.

In that game, Northern Lebanon overcame the continued absence of senior point guard Emily Brandt due to a knee injury with both composure and determination.

On Friday, Elco made Vikes' head coach Ken Battistelli wonder if he was guiding the same team that upended Garden Spot. The required determination was still present, but composure went AWOL.

"We were nervous as can be from the start of the game to the finish," Battistelli said. "Our minds were so wacked out tonight, I don't even know what to say.


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At no point did we get composure. They (the Vikings) were so anxious. They had adrenaline popping out of their eyeballs."

And that was just fine with the Raiders, who combined balanced scoring with the nerves-inducing defensive intensity. Three players hit double figures, with Victoria Sweatlock's 12 points leading the way and Kady Yoders and Cheyenne Hassler tallying 11 and 10, respectively.

"That was our goal," said Elco coach Ashli Shay, a star freshman on the '97-98 team that was feted, of the Raiders' desire to impose their will on Northern Lebanon defensively. "We knew this was gonna be a battle the whole game, and it always is. We knew they were gonna come to play, so we wanted to make sure we set the tone and got the intensity going from the start."

It all began reasonably well for the Vikings, with 3-point buckets from Morgan Hollis and Mariah LiBrandi staking the visitors to a 7-4 lead midway through the opening quarter.

But from there, the Raiders closed the first period with a 9-0 run sparked by back-to-back steals and buckets from Halie Parker and pretty much never let the Vikings breathe again.

Northern Lebanon did briefly respond for a time in the second, getting to within 15-11 on a pair of Kristen Lessing free throws with 3:30 to go in the half.

The Raiders  Kady Yoders has the ball slapped out of her hands by Viking defender Taylor Smith as NL s Mariah LiBrandi, right, stands her ground.
The Raiders Kady Yoders has the ball slapped out of her hands by Viking defender Taylor Smith as NL s Mariah LiBrandi, right, stands her ground. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
But again Elco used its defense to fuel another surge, this one a closing 11-2 spurt that culminated with a Hassler '3' with six seconds left and a 13-point halftime edge that would never return to single digits.

"We wanted to pressure the ball," Shay said, "and hope that we could force some turnovers and things like that. I think especially in the first half we got some nice turnovers from the ball pressure. We weren't trying to reach on the ball, we were waiting until the pass to anticipate some things. And I think we got some really nice looks off of that."

A little bit of the shine went off the Raiders' star in the second half, as the contest turned sloppy amid some inconsistent officiating that irritated both teams and led to Battistelli earning a technical in the fourth quarter.

"Before the second half, we really did play very well offensively and defensively," Shay said. "With how fast and aggressive we want to play on defense, sometimes it's hard to come off the gas on offense.

"That's where we get caught up sometimes. We need to slow ourselves down, it's not necessarily what our opponents are doing to us." Battistelli could certainly relate, albeit in a much more frustrated way.

"I think these kids came out on this floor, and were so jacked that they could not slow down," he said. "God bless 'em, it didn't matter (what I said). I was ready to pull my own head off my shoulders. Maybe that was the wrong message to send. Maybe a calming influence would have been better."

But with so many past champions in attendance, today's Elco team wasn't about to disappoint by letting their opponent off the hook.

"I think that was neat for them to see," Shay said of her team's reaction to the celebration. "I think it gave us a spark, for sure."