FREDERICKSBURG - You know something special is going on when you're good and people care.
The Northern Lebanon girls' basketball team has proven its worth with stellar play through the season's first month and an ever-growing number of faithful supporters have taken notice.
That was most apparent on Monday night during the Vikings' 14th straight win to open the season. With its fun-loving - and loud - Blue Crew student section riding shotgun, Northern Lebanon remained perfect, blitzing Annville-Cleona 53-24 in a Section Three-Four crossover contest on the Vikes' home floor.
Junior guard Zoe Zerman led the way with a game-high 21 points and fueled a decisive 20-6 run through the third quarter as the Vikings improved to 14-0 overall and 9-0 in Section Three ahead of Wednesday night's titanic showdown at perennial powerhouse Lancaster Catholic.
Northern Lebanon is not a perennial powerhouse, but it's riding the wave for all it's worth right now, much to the delight of the fandom.
"That's really, really fun," said Northern Lebanon coach Ken Battistelli of the atmosphere in the gym on game nights right now. "Of all the things that you think about, that's one that you look around and really appreciate. They know they're working hard, but when they see that (support) they know people are taking notice. I know the kids love this stuff."
There was a lot for all of the Vikings to love on Monday night, including a 16-4 burst through the first quarter that set the tone for the rout.
A-C (3-10, 2-7 Section Four), paced by Meredith Bachman's eight points, showed some fight after being staggered early, pulling to within 16-12 on a Morgan Zimmerman 3-pointer midway through the second. But that was as good as it would get for Roger Hayes' club, which despite showing admirable fight simply was no match for the Vikes' versatile and hard-nosed starting five of Zerman, Megan Brandt, Liz Voight (11 points), Cassiah Ray and Amber Kintzer,
"They're 14-0 for a reason," Hayes said with a smile of the Vikings. "We got off to a rough start, 16-4, but we came back and weathered that storm and made a game of it in the first half. Then the second half we just didn't match their intensity. They're a good team. They've got great chemistry, too. They're tough."
That was evidenced by the third quarter eruption, which featured points from all five starters and culminated with two Kintzer free throws with 2.3 seconds left that made it a 42-20 game heading into the final eight minutes.
"I thought the first half we were a little impatient and forcing things a little bit," Battistelli said. "But I think Annville really played hard and played tough and scrapped and fought. We talked at halftime about letting the offense do the work. When we force things, that's when we're not as good. We didn't come out flat, we just didn't play our best in the first half. But the effort's always there."
And because of that consistent effort to date, the Vikings have the rare opportunity to be part of a marquee L-L matchup on Wednesday at Lancaster Catholic.
"No matters what happens, it's just a game," Battistelli said of the impending matchup with the Crusaders. "Our goals are bigger than that. If something good happen against Lancaster Catholic and then we lose the next three games, whoop de-do. We're just trying to get a little better every game.
"But the excitement, the hype, the pressure, that's all good stuff. Win or lose, you get stronger from that. I don't know what's gonna happen Wednesday, but I don't think our kids are nervous about it."
Probably just excited, like their fans are these days.
Northern Lebanon 53, Annville-Cleona 24
Meredith Bachman 4 0-1 8, Steph Inman 0 1-2 1, Addie Hayes 1 0-0 3, Hannah Fischer 0 0-0 0, Michaela Singer 1 1-2 4, Morgan Zimmerman 1 1-2 4, Chloe Inman 1 0-0 2, Lauren Schrader 0 0-0 0, Liane Lech 0 0-0 0, Katie Shaak 0 0-0 0, Malin Hermanson 0 0-0 0, Harper Sellers 1 0-0 2, Alyssa Felty 0 0-0 0, Madison Luciotti 0 0-2 0 Totals — 9 3-9 24 .
Northern Lebanon (53)
Cassiah Ray 2 1-2 6, Liz Voight 3 4-6 11, Megan Brandt 3 2-4 8, Amber Kintzer 1 5-6 7, Zoe Zerman 8 3-6 21, Emma Kelliher 0 0-2 0, Jenna Wentling 0 0-0 0, Kaylee Mauser 0 0-0 0, RaeAnn Lessing 0 0-0 0, Brianna Seip 0 0-0 0, Charis Gatum 0 0-0 0 Totals — .17 15-26 53
Annville-Cleona _ 4 _ 10 _ 6 _ 3 _ — _ 23
Northern Lebanon _ 16 _ 6 _ 20 _ 11 _ — _ 53
3-point goals — AC: Zimmerman, Hayes, Singer, NL: Ray, Zerman 2, Voight.
JV score — Annville-Cleona 16, Northern Lebanon 14 (OT)