When you have a team made up of mostly juniors and are facing an undefeated and extremely talented Lancaster Catholic squad, it is hard not to use the contest as a measuring stick.
Such was the case for Chris George and his Northern Lebanon Vikings on Friday night in Fredericksburg.
Fresh off a victory over Pequea Valley on Tuesday that was his 100th victory as a coach, George’s Vikings found themselves sitting in third place in Section 3. While it’s still early in the season and there are many games left, George hoped that the game would serve as a momentum builder that would help propel his team to the postseason.
Early on, the Vikings were able to go toe-to-toe with the Crusaders, but Lancaster Catholic’s posts, Danny Bomberger (17 points) and Sean Landis (15), led the way offensively, and the stifling defense of the Crusaders proved too much for George’s team.
While the Vikings ended up on the wrong end of of a 51-32 score, George found plenty of positives, especially with his team’s defense and their response when the Crusaders (10-0, 5-0 L-L) tried to go on runs.
“Lancaster Catholic is the class of the area right now,” George said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a tall task, but we competed really well, especially on the defensive end, so it gives us a lot of confidence that we can hang with a team that’s as talented as this for four quarters.”
Northern Lebanon (4-6, 2-3), which was outscored 17-6 in the first quarter, progressively improved each quarter to the point where the Vikings actually outscored the Crusaders 16-10. They also forced a normally offensively sound Lancaster Catholic team into 16 turnovers.
“Granted they took their foot off the gas a little bit at the end,” said George, “but if you would have told me before the game that we were going to hold them to 51 and turn them over 16 times? They’re very good and well coached.”
But as happy as George was with the defensive effort, he knows that to be the best, his team has to not just play the best, they have to beat the best. In order to do that, he points to the need for improvement on the offensive end, especially against a team that played tough, pressure defense like the Crusaders.
“We’ll figure some things out on the offensive end,” he said. “We have some kids who are too talented for us to shoot 1-for-17 from the 3-point line. We won’t shoot like that every night. We’ll make some adjustments, we’ll get better, the kids will keep responding and hopefully react the right way and get better.”
While they look to improve offensively though, George wants the Vikings to keep the energy and never-quit mentality they exhibited tonight.
“When the offense wasn’t there, we responded. Caleb (Light) and Michigan (Daub) were awesome on the defensive end all night, giving us energy up and down,” he said. “We didn’t quit. We kept fighting through four quarters. I think there’s a lot to be positive about and certainly a lot of stuff that we need to watch on film, learn from, and get better at.”
Daub led Northern Lebanon with 10 points, while Light chipped in nine.
The Vikings do not have much time to make lots of changes - they travel to Section 3 co-leader Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday before a showdown with rival Elco on Friday in Myerstown.