The Viking used a 17-0 first half run as the catalyst for a convincing 51-34 victory over their county rival
MYERSTOWN - You don't get to be 12-0 by being meek and unwilling to rise to a challenge.
There are things still to learn about the Northern Lebanon girls basketball team - and for the Vikings to prove - but based on its play through the first dozen games there is no need to wonder about its desire to compete.
The Vikings got a little shove from a young but feisty Elco squad early on Tuesday night, finding themselves locked in a 12-12 tie late in the first quarter of the Section Three matchup.
Northern Lebanon's response? How about 17 unanswered points, a 29-12 halftime lead, and ultimately a commanding 51-34 victory that left it still unbeaten at 12-0 overall and 7-0 in the section. The Vikings are the Lancaster-Lebanon League's lone unbeaten girls team and, as noted, there is a reason for that.
"I'm not gonna pretend I have it figured out just yet," Northern Lebanon's fiery head coach Ken Battistelli said with a chuckle. "But we have shown the ability to rise when we need to. I don't want to put too much stock in that, but it does seem when we need to, we have it. We have the ability to do that."
The Vikings issued their reminder of that beginning with the final 1:14 of the second quarter, following two Chandelle Keller free throws that knotted the score at 12 and gave a promising Elco club (5-5, 3-4 Section Three) some hope for a four-quarter fight to the finish.
And then that hope was gone. Cassiah Ray and Zoe Zerman (game-high 19 points) nailed 3-pointers in the final 55 seconds of the quarter for an 18-12 lead, and that was followed the Vikes pitching an 11-0 shutout in the second while getting points and ferocious defense from the starting five of Zerman, Ray, Megan Brandt, Liz Voight (11 points) and Amber Kintzer.
"We're a tough matchup most nights," said Elco coach Ashli Shay, whose club was led by 14 points from freshman forward Ryelle Shuey. "But you play an experienced, veteran-led, just well-coached team like Northern Lebanon, you gotta bring your 'A' game for four quarters. You can't pick and choose when you're gonna play. That's them, that's their identity. That's one of the most hard-nosed, tough teams you're gonna play."
Though junior floor leader Zerman did the most damage, and co-catalyst Brandt was typically active and aggressive, it was the play of sophomore guards Voight and Ray that made the Vikes particularly tough on Tuesday night.
Ray started and ended the 17-0 spurt while tallying seven points for the night, and Voight dropped in nine of her 11 points before intermission to keep Northern Lebanon engaged in the fight early on.
"You can't win 12 games without having five players on the floor that are contributing," Battistelli said. "Zoe makes things happen, but somebody's gotta finish (the play). Somebody's gotta get Brandt the ball in the right space. They (Ray and Voight) make plenty of contributions and I just expect it to continue to improve. "
To its credit, Elco's spirit didn't completely buckle under the weight of the 17-0 run. After the Vikes grew their lead to 19 early in the third, the Raiders showed some moxie, getting to within 41-28 on a Shuey free throw with 6:29 left.
But from there, Zerman set up Kintzer for back-to-back layups to push the lead back to 17 a minute later.
"They have gotten better," Shay said of her team. "We're seeing development from individuals, we just need to continue to progress as a team, everybody together. They do work hard. We can't be upset about that."
It's also hard to be upset about losing to a team that hasn't been beaten yet. Or failed to rise to the occasion.
"It speaks to the quality of the kids," Battistelli said of what 12-0 means. "The fact that they come out day in and day out and compete against some really quality teams. You can't do that if you're not consistently prepared. You can't question that. And I can't say that there's a game that I saw them that they didn't play their hearts out for me."
Northern Lebanon 51, Elco 34
Northern Lebanon (51)
Cassiah Ray 3 0-2 7, Liz Voight 5 0-0 11, Megan Brandt 4 0-0 8, Amber Kintzer 3 0-0 6, Jenna Wentling 0 0-0 0, Zoe Zerman 8 2-5 19 . Totals — 23 2-7 51 .
Taylor Bossert 0 0-0 0, Chandelle Keller 4 2-2 10, Jordan Rosengarnt 0 0-0 0, Emily Bidelspach 0 0-0 0, Alexis Thomas 2 0-0 4, Julia Nelson 2 1-2 6, Ryelle Shuey 5 4-5 14 . Totals — 13 7-9 34
Northern Lebanon _ 18 _ 11 _ 10 _ 12 _ — _51
Elco _ 12_0 _13 _9 _ — _ 34
3-point goals — NL: Ray, Voight, Zerman, E: Nelson.
JV score — Elco 37, Northern Lebanon 20.