Palmyra’s Kristen Smoluk eyes up a short jumper while being guarded by Northern Lebanon’s Megan Brandt on Friday night during the first round
Palmyra's Kristen Smoluk eyes up a short jumper while being guarded by Northern Lebanon's Megan Brandt on Friday night during the first round of the Vikings' tip-off tournament. The Cougars rolled to the 44-point win and will get Lebanon in tonight's final. (Glen Gray — Lebanon Daily News)

FREDERICKSBURG - Carly Richardson, Palmyra's 1,000-point scorer, got her senior season off to a good start Friday night in the Northern Lebanon girls' basketball tip-off tournament.

The Cougars' Bucknell-bound 5-foot-10 forward opened the year by scoring nine first-quarter points on her way to 13 for the game as Palmyra cruised to a 66-22 win over the host Vikings.

When Richardson, who now has 1,055 career points, stole the ball at midcourt and scored to make it 18-2 with 1:58 left in the first quarter, it was just a matter of by how much the Cougars would win.

"It was a good first game," Palmyra coach Ron Berman said. "We were lucky to draw Northern Lebanon, which is rebuilding and retooling. Carly came out and played well and we were able to work on some things and do pretty much whatever we wanted."

The most pleasant surprise for the Cougars was 5-foot-10 sophomore Josie Stovall, who matched Richardson's 13 points. Kristen Smoluk also had 11 for Palmyra, which was 29-1 last year with Mid-Penn and District 3 Class AAA championships.

"We're still a work in progress, but it went well tonight," Richardson said. "Kristen Smoluk and Katy McClellan showed a lot of leadership and of the younger girls who played, Josie and Molly Gundermann, played really well."

In the opening game, Lebanon's promise of a good season got kick-started with a tense 39-38 win over District 11 AA power Pine Grove, which provided most of the drama on the first night of the season.

Senior Lauren Chambers hit two fourth-quarter 3-pointers, and senior Kiana Graves scored 12 points in the paint to pace the Cedars.

Lebanon faces Palmyra today in the 7 p.m. title game, preceded by Northern Lebanon and Pine Grove at 5:30 p.m.

Coach Berman's veteran club, with seven players returning from last year's championship club, had the good fortune of opening against a young NL team that is virtually brand new.

Viking coach Ken Battistelli's lone player with varsity experience, junior Morgan Phillips, was joined in the starting lineup by juniors Ashley Lessing and Hannah Reese and freshmen Megan Brandt and Zoe Zerman.

The Vikes managed 12 second-quarter points to make it 40-16 at halftime, while being held to six in the second half. Brandt finished with nine to lead NL.

"This is a really good tournament," NL Coach Ken Battistelli said. "We had some young girls come out this year. Opening against Palmyra, the district champ, was a big challenge for us. Hopefully, we've learned something. I wanted my young girls to get a look at the monster, to see how things can turn out."

The Cougars’ Kathryn McClellan battles the Vikngs’ Zoe Zerman for the ball in front of a crowd of players Friday night.
The Cougars' Kathryn McClellan battles the Vikngs' Zoe Zerman for the ball in front of a crowd of players Friday night. (Glen Gray — Lebanon Daily News)

Berman had his starters on the court for basically a half, while giving playing time to all 10 players in uniform. An 11th, projected starting point guard Katie Dembrowski, is sidelined until January with a broken wrist she suffered in the PIAA-AA field hockey playoffs.

"As far as openers go, it was good," said Berman, whose team opens Mid-Penn Keystone Division play Tuesday at Cedar Cliff. "It gave us a chance to look at some of the younger girls, like Josie. We'll see how we do in our next game against Lebanon, against some bigger girls."

Lebanon, which featured 6-foot-2 center Madison Rakow, 5-8 Alicia Haitos and 5-7 Graves, found itself in a tight battle with Pine Grove until the final whistle. Both teams wanted to win their first games.

With 31.7 seconds left, Pine Grove missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 39, with Chambers claiming the rebound. The Cedars were then able to eventually run out the clock.

Chambers, Lebanon's leading scorer a year ago, was held scoreless until the fourth quarter.

"We shot 22 percent the first half," coach Ben Brewer said. "Lauren was guarding their best player and some times, when you're playing so much defense, you lose your offensive rhythm. When we moved Shaela (Shellehamer) on their top scorer, Lauren made a couple of shots."

Brewer saw some good things, particularly from his frontline.

"That was probably the best game Kiana Graves ever played," Brewer said. "Her up and under move was really working. And offensively, we rebounded well. We had 13 offensive rebounds."

Brewer said opening-game jitters, along with the pressure defense played by Pine Grove, got to his team in the beginning.

"We turned the ball over nine times in the first half," he said. "Once we settled down, we got that down to four turnovers in the second half."

Graves had 10 of her 12 points in the middle two periods to offset the game-high 15 points of Pine Grove's Becky Evans.

Chambers worked free under the bucket and fed Haitos for what proved to be the winning basket with 1:02 left.