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Sequels don't always live up to the quality of the original production, but there are exceptions.

Don't be surprised if Northern Lebanon-Lancaster Catholic II is one of those exceptions.

The first meeting between the two 23-1 girls basketball teams was fun for the whole family, an entertaining affair won by Catholic 53-49 on Jan. 13 in Lancaster. The next installment comes Friday night at 7 p.m. at Warwick High School with the Lancaster-Lebanon League title on the line.

Get in line early, don't forget to grab some popcorn, sit back and appreciate two talented, hard-nosed teams going at it.

"That's great," NL coach Ken Battistelli said of facing Catholic again, this time for all the marbles. "We thought we hung in there and did a nice job the first time. I know we're not intimidated, so we'll see what happens."

The Vikings, who have never won a league title, did indeed hang in nicely in the first encounter with perennial power Catholic, overcoming a 28-15 deficit late in the first half and foul trouble that cost them junior floor leader Zoe Zerman early in the fourth quarter to push the Crusaders to the wall before falling by four points.

It proved to be Northern Lebanon's only loss of the season, but also revealed it to be a championship-caliber team it will now try to become Friday night. The Crusaders, meanwhile, will be searching for their 12th L-L crown in the rematch.

It figures to be one of many classic matchups between the two in the next year or so. They're on target for a second-round meeting in the upcoming District Three AAA playoffs, and will face off at least twice next year as co-residents of L-L Section Three.

"It's kinda crazy," Battistelli said. "Our paths could cross in districts, our paths cross in the league championship, and then next year we'll be in the same section. We're gonna be seeing a lot of those guys."

What follows is a closer look at their next and most important meeting to date:
Lancaster Catholic vs. Northern Lebanon, Lancaster-Lebanon League Championship Game

When, where: 7 p.m. Friday, at Warwick High School, Lititz

Records: Lancaster Catholic 23-1, Northern Lebanon 23-1

Coaches: Lancaster Catholic - Charlie Detz, Northern Lebanon - Ken Battistelli

Probable starters: Lancaster Catholic - Caroline Scarff, (5-11, Sr., F, 11.5 ppg), Kiki Jefferson (5-11, Fr., G/F, 20.9 ppg), Lauren Mills (5-11, Soph., G/F, 10.8 ppg.), Julia Breit (5-5, Jr., G, 9.1 ppg), Annaliese Schreder (5-5, Sr., G, 6.0 ppg.). Northern Lebanon - Zoe Zerman (5-9, Jr., G, 13.7 ppg.), Megan Brandt (5-9, Jr., F, 13.3 ppg.), Liz Voight (5-7, Soph. G, 9.5 ppg.), Amber Kintzer (5-6, Jr., F, 4.2 ppg.), Cassiah Ray (5-6, Soph., G, 4.6 ppg.)

The Skinny: As noted, the first one was a classic encounter and this one figures to be no different. Catholic has tradition and plenty of firepower on its side, particularly that coming from dynamic freshman Jefferson and 1, 000-point scorer Scarff.

But the Vikings are a proud, fierce bunch who haven't backed away from a challenge yet. NL's calling card is its in-your-grill man-to-man defense and Zerman and Brandt are tough to stop on offense when they get going. Voight is an emerging standout at guard, and role players extraordinaire Kintzer and Ray rarely get beaten to a loose ball.

Catholic had a good deal of success running two defenders at Zerman to get the ball out of her hands in the January meeting, but the Vikings eventually adjusted and had a lead late even with their floor leader fouling out.

For its part, NL did a nice job defensively the last time out, too, holding Jefferson to 13 points, almost eight under her average.

If both stars are neutralized again this time around, it will come down to supporting players, which Catholic has a few more of since the Vikes rarely go to the bench.

Depth might be the difference in the end, but count out Northern Lebanon at your own peril. The Section Three champs just get the job done, whatever it takes.

As for a prediction, I'll lean toward Catholic by the slimmest of margins. But at the same time, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Vikings hoisting the championship trophy late Friday night.

In short, it should be fun. Enjoy the show.

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