Northern Lebanon has spent much of this season leading its basketball games, but struggling to hold the lead when the final buzzer sounds.
On Tuesday night, the Vikings got the plays they needed late in the form of key offensive rebounds in a 66-55 win over Schuylkill Valley in the opening round of the Northern Lebanon boys' basketball holiday tournament.
The Comets beat Daniel Boone 60-45 in the other first-round contest.
Northern Lebanon led the Panthers (2-4) 56-51 with under two minutes to play when the home team missed back-to-back opening shots of one-and-ones. The misses were rebounded by Michigan Daub and Dominic Celleri, and Celleri made one free throw to make it 57-51 with 1:27 remaining.
After holding on defense, the Vikings missed two more free throws, but a team rebound gave them another chance. Alex Yeager made two free throws after that for a 59-51 lead with 1:03 to go.
“That's why we aren't focusing on the negative of missing the foul shots, but just making a play,” Northern Lebanon coach Chris George said.
Yeager scored seven of his 20 points in the last 63 seconds to put the game away.
Northern Lebanon closed the first half on a 10-1 run to take a 31-23 lead at the break. Daub, who led all players with 21 points and 13 rebounds, had a putback for the last points of the half.
“We've done that all year. We've been leading every game at halftime. We're winning and we're 2-4. We're a young team so that's to be expected,” George said. “We're learning how to win, how to finish, and how to play when the other team is coming after you.”
“This is a couple of games in a row where [Daub] has looked to attack the rim,” George said. “When he's an offensive threat, we're a different team.
Schuylkill Valley whittled that lead down to one point when Tyler Worrell made a field goal for a 43-42 score. Celleri scored with 11 seconds left in the period to give the Vikings at 45-42 lead going into the final period.
By the middle of the fourth quarter, Northern Lebanon had three players with four fouls, and Schuylkill Valley pulled to within 52-47. A steal and layup by Daub helped keep the Panthers at bay and allow the Vikings to decide the game at the free throw line and on the offensive glass.
Northern Lebanon out-rebounded Schuylkill Valley 37-22.
Caleb Light had 14 points for the Vikings.
Cody Mish paced Schuylkill Valley with 14 points. Ryan Worrell scored 12 and Tyler Worrell had 11.
Northern Lebanon was 17-for-26 from the free throw line, while the Panthers were 7-for-20.