Isaac Bicher led the Vikings with 19 points in a close road victory at Lebanon Catholic

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LEBANON -- Six-foot-four centers aren't supposed to dive headlong into their own benches to save loose balls at midcourt.

But don't tell that to Northern Lebanon's Shane Reese, whose Vikings also aren't supposed be lacing up with a win percentage of .800, per preseason forecasts. And yet, here they are.

The Northern Lebanon boys basketball team rolled to its fourth straight win of the season Monday, staving off Lebanon Catholic, 52-49, in Section 3-4 crossover action on Assumption Hill. The Vikings (4-1, 2-0 Lancaster-Lebanon) led for the night's final 19:23, surviving late 3-pointers from the Beavers' Joe Gates in the final minutes. Northern Lebanon sophomore Caleb Light sank a pair of free throws to gain a two-score advantage with 20 seconds to go, essentially sealing victory.

Moments earlier, the night's leading scorer, Isaac Bicher (19 points), had collected a missed Reese shot to eventually set up Light's finishing touch. But the play of the night belonged to the Northern Lebanon big man, who started an and-one play with his possession-saving dive during an earlier 12-4 run in the third quarter.

"I don't know how you beat that. That might be the play of the year already," Vikings coach Chris George said. "To be able to tip the ball back to a kid to get an and-one, he just came out of nowhere. That's the kind of stuff we've been getting all year. These kids, every one of them, play their butts off. It was huge."

Trailing by 13 at a moment more than six minutes to go, Lebanon Catholic (1-3, 0-2 Lancaster-Lebanon) began to gather steam from beyond the arc, first via a Humberto Valerio 3-ball. The comeback climb, later built on Gates' hot shooting, then reached a 50-47 deficit at 0:54 remaining until Beavers' guard Miguel Escobar committed an offensive foul, handing Northern Lebanon possession and later the game.

While Lebanon Catholic's sour outcome was undoubtedly tied to its late-game struggles, the loss also seemed to serve as penance for earlier sins of lackluster middle quarters.

"We played a quarter and a half of basketball tonight. We played the first quarter and the last half of the fourth quarter and that was it," Beavers coach Scott Clentimack said. "Unfortunately you can't win close games like that. When it's tight, you've got to be able to execute and we're still learning that part of it."

Lebanon Catholic's Davian Perez (16 points) matched the Vikings basket for basket early, opening with a nine-point quarter that staked his squad a 13-9 lead after the first period.

Northern Lebanon then temporarily solved its Perez problem by committing to a 2-3 zone, which yielded success in the form of poor Beavers' shot selection and lesser penetration. Consequently, Lebanon Catholic went scoreless for a stretch of 5:35, striking nylon at last on a Gates 3-pointer that knotted the score at 16-all, but failed to spark much further offense heading into intermission.

The Vikings closed the half on 9-4 run, knocking down five free throws afforded by the foul-plagued Beavers. Bicher finished with nine points in the second quarter alone.

"They were beating us off the dribble big time and it took us some adjustment. But we fought back," George said. "Our defense locked down, which is what we needed ... You can see our growing pains on the court, but they haven't always transferred over to the scoreboard and cost us games yet because our kids are just playing so hard."

Northern Lebanon 52, Lebanon Catholic 49

Northern Lebanon (52)

Caleb Light 3 3-4 9, Isaac Bicher 7 5-6 19, Noah Gingrich 3 0-0 6, Alex Yeager 2 1-1 6, William Fellows 2 3-4 7, Shane Reese 2 1-4 5. Totals — 19 13-19 52.

Lebanon Catholic (49)

Luke Frattaroli 5 0-0 10, Nate Hatzfield 1 0-0 2, Joe Gates 4 0-0 11, Miguel Escobar 1 0-0 3, Davian Perez 7 1-5 16, Sabu Pereyra 1 0-0 2, Humberto Valerio 2 0-0 5. Totals — 21 1-5 49.

N.Lebanon_ 9 _ 15_ 16_ 12 _ — _ 52  

Leb. Cath._ 13_ 7 _ 11 _ 18 _ — _ 49  

3-point goals — NL 1 (Yeager), LC 6 (Gates 3, Valerio, Escobar, Perez).

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