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Highlights from the Raiders' 59-52 win over NL Thursday. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com

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MYERSTOWN – As the Northern Lebanon boys hoops team continues grinding out a challenging season, the one message coach Chris George wants to stress is making sure his team is continuing to show improvement every day.

And though it hasn’t been indicated  much on the scoreboard lately, George feels as if his young team is continuing taking steps in the right direction – but the growing pains continued with a 59-52 loss to Elco Thursday at Elco High School.

“If you watch tonight, other than a few defensive breakdowns, our defense was pretty solid,” George said. “They hit some tough shots, and Bossert always will. We held them to 59, so that’s one of their lower outputs of the season. With us turning the ball over, we gave them a few easy ones. You can see the kids are playing their butts off. I thought our offense got going in the second half, we just have to make shots. If we finish half those easy shots, this game is tight in the fourth quarter.”

But even in the midst of seeing continued progress, the Vikings coach still knows his team has plenty of work to do.

“For some of our guys, I just don't know if they quite come to the realization that it’s a 32-minute war,” George said. “Still, too many times we sort of relax, and we had too many defensive breakdowns. For the first half, our offense struggled a bit, but when we started getting the looks we wanted in the second half, we didn’t finish, especially around the rim.”

Though Michigan Daub didn’t have his best offensive performance, two out of NL’s big three – Alex Yeager and Caleb Light - had productive nights offensively, and George has been pleased with their progress.

“Michigan has been playing great for us,” George said. “He was just a little off tonight. He’s essentially been our best player on both ends of the floor. You can see athletically what he can do. He plays hard and does so many different things. Alex got it going early, and then struggled down the stretch. Caleb was fairly consistent throughout.”

But if NL (3-8, 2-5) is going to eventually see itself climb up the standings, Light, Yeager, and Daub are going to need help.

George said, “We got to figure out a way to get some more out of those bench and role guys. Some of that’s on me. We’ll go back as coaches and see if we can figure out some other was to get those guys in the mix.”

While enduring a tough season as the Vikings have, George says there’s been no quit in his team – something that will go a long way in their growth – but the focus is still on finishing this season strong.

“I think it does help that they’re young,” George said. “These kids know the future’s bright here. Our starting five or six is basically five out of six juniors. We can’t be shooting toward next year though. We need to keep getting better and play well and hopefully we’ll start to steal a win here and there.”

With the win, Elco (4-8, 3-4) continues its upward swing in the Section Three standings, all alone in fifth place, and just a half game behind Annville-Cleona for fourth.

“Anytime it’s Northern Lebanon it’s a big game for us,” said Raiders coach Brad Conners. “It’s a border war and we were looking forward to it. We’ve been in a lot of games now and we need to learn how to win, and we got over the hump.”

And that’s been the most encouraging takeaway for Conners, in addition to seeing his team showing resiliency.

“We’re starting to execute more, so it’s nice to see. To be honest, the kids really don’t waver a whole lot. They’ve been confident. They don’t stay down too long. I kind of knew it was coming, but it’s important to actually get it. I’m happy for them.”

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