As spring descends on the Lebanon Valley, the Vikings and Beavers are still pursuing state playoff dreams
There are many other indicators, of course, but if the feeling of spring is in the air and you're still going to basketball practice, it's proof positive that you've done something right.
Breaking news: The Northern Lebanon and Lebanon Catholic girls basketball teams have done more than a few things right this season.
That's evidenced in the fact that while the rest of Lebanon County has turned the page to spring sports - and enjoyed the balmy temperatures that have come with them - the Vikings are prepping for the second round of the state playoffs on Wednesday night.
Northern Lebanon, basking in the glory of the most successful season in program history, is set for a fourth meeting with arch nemesis Lancaster Catholic in a Class AAA clash at 7:30 p.m. at Milton Hershey School, while the 18-time District Three Class A champion Beavers head to Hamburg for a 6 p.m. tussle with Tri-Valley, the District 11 runner-up.
The winners advance to Saturday's quarterfinal round, the losers pack away their gear until next season.
What follows is a quick look at which team might be doing what following Wednesday's contests:
Northern Lebanon vs. Lancaster Catholic
When, where: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Milton Hershey
Records: Northern Lebanon 27-3, Lancaster Catholic 29-1
Coaches: Northern Lebanon - Ken Battistelli, Lancaster Catholic - Charlie Detz
Probable starters: Northern Lebanon - Zoe Zerman (Jr., guard), Megan Brandt (Jr., forward), Amber Kintzer (Jr., forward), Liz Voight (Soph., guard), Cassiah Ray (Soph., guard). Lancaster Catholic - Caroline Scarff (Sr., forward). Kiki Jefferson (Fr., guard/forward), Julia Breit (Jr., guard), Lauren Mills (Soph. guard), Annaliese Schreder (Sr., guard).
The breakdown: Will meeting No. 4 between the Vikings and the Crusaders go the way of the first three? If so, fans will be in for a treat. Lancaster Catholic won each of those encounters - giving Northern Lebanon all three of its losses this season - but two of the three were flat-out wars.
Lancaster Catholic has been just a little bit better in those battles and is aided by more depth, but Northern Lebanon is not intimidated in the least. Staying out of foul trouble and containing freshman phenom Kiki Jefferson are priorities for the Vikings. For Catholic, getting off to a good start and not letting NL build confidence is a key. The Vikes staggered the Crusaders with a 12-2 run to start their last meeting in the district quarterfinals and nearly paid for it.
No matter what, though, this should be a dandy. And get ready for more fun next year when the teams will meet at least twice as rivals in the revamped Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three.
Lebanon Catholic vs. Tri-Valley
When, where: 6 p.m., Wednesday, Hamburg High School
Records: Lebanon Catholic 21-6, Tri-Valley 14-12
Coaches: Lebanon Catholic - Patti Hower, Tri-Valley - Clark Romberger
Probable starters: Lebanon Catholic - Mariah Sholly (Soph., guard), Neesha Pierre (Soph., guard), Allie Warren (Sr., guard/forward), Celine Mars (Jr., forward). Jayden Shellehamer (Soph., guard). Tri-Valley - Paige Doyle (Sr., guard), Brianne Pacenta (Sr., guard), Kori Deibert (Sr., forward), Madison Maxwell (Jr., forward), Kelly Romberger (Sr., forward).
The breakdown: Catholic held on for a 44-42 victory over District Four third seed Sayre in the first round on Saturday, so it's not exactly storming into the second round. But it's all about surviving and advancing at this time of year, something Catholic has another chance to do Wednesday night.
Toughened by a challenging regular-season schedule and boasting what is undoubtedly one of the better starting groups in the bracket, the Beavers would have to be considered the favorite in this one. The Bulldogs are 14-12, not terribly big, and have only one double-figure scorer in the 5-8 Romberger, who averages around 11 points per game.
Catholic, meanwhile, counters with a versatile attack that features Pierre and Mars slashing to the hoop and Warren, Sholly and Shellehamer capable of heating up from the perimeter. In short, the Beavers figure to have too much firepower for the District 11 runner-up. But you never know - there is no such thing as an easy second-round state game.