Zoe Zerman led the way with 19 points in a 39-28 win over perennial power Palmyra

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FREDERICKSBURG - In recent years, the Northern Lebanon girls' basketball program has looked up to perennial power Palmyra, hopeful of one day being as respected as the Cougars have been over the last decade-plus.

On Saturday night, the Vikings were looking right at Palmyra instead of up at it. And not once did Northern Lebanon avert its eyes in embarrassment or with a feeling of unworthiness.

Nor should it have. As the Vikings proved on Saturday night, they're not intimidated by anybody. And as good as anybody, too.

Matching Palmyra both athletically and in terms of intensity - and often surpassing the Cougars in those areas - Northern Lebanon produced its most eye-opening win in recent memory, handling Palmyra 39-28 in the championship game of the Northern Lebanon Tip-Off event.

After a slow start that had them down 10-2 less than three minutes in, the Vikings completely controlled the game in Palmyra-like fashion behind a superb 19-point outing from junior floor leader Zoe Zerman.

It's only two games, yes, but hello, Northern Lebanon.

"It's pretty exciting," said a beaming Zerman, who shared those emotions evenly with her equally happy teammates. "We work really hard and like to have the tough teams in this tournament, and every year we want to this tournament. This is one of the first years that we've won. It boosts our confidence a lot."

"We've always held Palmyra, because I have so much respect for their program and their coach, as the team we try to emulate," said Northern Lebanon coach Ken Battistelli, who also got nice efforts from Megan Brandt, Liz Voight and Cassiah Ray. "We take notice to their toughness, their commitment and their aggressiveness. We see them as the pinnacle of what we'd like to be. For us to come out, and feel like we  belong on the same floor is really awesome."

Palmyra (1-1) showed some of those attributes early in surging to the aforementioned 10-2 lead with the help of eight of senior forward Molly Gundermann's team-high 17 points and managed to hang onto a 16-15 lead at the half.

But by intermission, Northern Lebanon was beginning to wear the Cougars down with its athleticism and defensive intensity. And it paid dividends in the third quarter, when it outscored Palmyra 15-6 and took the lead for good on a driving layup by Zerman 35 seconds into the period.

"For the last four years, we've won every game that we were the most athletic team. Northern Lebanon is much more athletic than we are," Palmyra coach Ron Berman said. "Their defense was outstanding. They did a great job funneling us to the baseline and helping. There's no doubt right now that Northern Lebanon is the better team."

With all due respect to Gundermann, who was sensational, the Vikings also boasted the best player on the floor in Zerman, who tallied eight of her 19 points in the third quarter while adding a slick assist to Brandt for a 30-20 lead with 55 ticks left in the period.

"She has no fear of being the one," Battistelli said of Zerman. "We were all tough on defense, but Zoe has the confidence on offense I think that feeds everybody.They know she's not scared."

Whatever the Vikings are being fed these days Battistelli hopes more of it is on the menu in the near future.

"They're a relentless machine, and we matched them," he said. "I'm kind of in shock. I guess we believe in ourselves."

Northern Lebanon 39, Palmyra 28

Palmyra (28)

Baldo 0-0 0-0 0, Werkheiser 0 0-0 0, Carmo 0 0-0 0, Gundermann 7 0-0 17, Stovall 1 0-2 2, Richardson 3 1-2 7, McLucas 1 0-0 2, Schultz 0 0-0 0, Bowman 0 0-0 0, Garcia 0 0-0 0,  Totals — .12 1-2 28

Northern Lebanon (39)

Ray 2 0-0 4, Voight 2 3-5 8, Brandt 4 0-0 8, Kintzer 0 0-0 0, Zerman 6 7-8 19, Wentling 0 0-0 0, Lessing 0 0-0 0. Totals — 14 10-13 39. .

Palmyra _ 10 _ 6 _ 6 _ 6 _ — _ 28

Northern Lebanon _ 11 _ 4 _ 15 _ 9 _ — _ 39

3-point goals — P: Gundermann 3, NL: Voight

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