FREDERICKSBURG - The Northern Lebanon girls basketball team accomplished a lot of special things both inside and outside its own gymnasium last season.
But the Vikings enjoyed themselves the most inside the friendly confines of their home venue, so it was no small amount of sentiment that they took into Friday night's opening contest vs. Littlestown in the Lady Viking Tip-Off Tournament.
And not surprisingly, Northern Lebanon's play bore a striking resemblance to last season, as it used a defense-fueled 18-2 burst through the second quarter to help secure a 56-22 victory and a spot in Saturday night's 7 p.m. title game vs. county rival Palmyra.
Senior catalysts Megan Brandt and Zoe Zerman paced the effort with 18 and 11 points, respectively, and junior guard Liz Voight and freshman Zara Zerman tallied nine points apiece for NL, which was never threatened after the second quarter romp produced a 31-8 halftime lead.
"It felt really good to be back to doing what we like to do," Northern Lebanon coach Ken Battistelli said of once again playing in front of a supportive home crowd that included its Blue Crew student section. "The girls had a little bit of a tough time with it, saying it's their last, first game (together). They were thinking about stuff, and I think that's one of the things that makes us cool, that they do think like that. The like it so much. It means a lot to all of us."
The Vikings were successful in their season opener for many of the same reasons they were last season - balanced offense and a ferocious brand of man-to-man defense.
After an ordinary first quarter in which it led 13-6, NL put the defensive hammer down in the second and never looked back again.
"I think there were some things on defense we definitely need to do a better job on or we'll be in for a long night (against Palmyra)," Battistelli said. "The one thing I did like was we have some new faces and they do add a little. As the season goes, that's gonna be nice.
"I thought the defense was struggling in the first quarter, but I always think our defense just gets better throughout the game, and I thought that was the case tonight."
Littlestown, led by Lindsey Snyder's 8 points, enjoyed a mini 5-2 run over the first 1:48 of the third quarter, but the Vikings quickly put a stop to that with a jumper by Brandt and a layup by Zoe Zerman off a Lady Bolts turnover and closed the period comfortably ahead, 46-16.
Palmyra 51, Kennard-Dale 18
In the opener of the NL tip-off event, Palmyra enjoyed a similarly lopsided victory over a York-Adams foe, running out to a 21-2 first quarter lead and cruising home from there to make Mary Manlove's debut as head coach a successful one.
The sophomore duo of point guard Amelia Baldo and Olivia Richardson led the way with 13 points apiece, and freshman Annabelle Copeland came off the bench to add 13 more to help the Cougars to their title game berth.
"It's nice to come out with a win," Manlove said. "I'm pleased, I'm pleased with how our girls performed. I thought their intensity was maintained through four quarters, and I thought we were able to get some kids some minutes to play with some lineups."
"Veterans" Baldo and Richardson, who saw some considerable time as freshmen, did the heavy lifting early, combining for 12 of the 21 first quarter points to send Palmyra on its way.
"They really had some learning experiences last year with Coach (Ron) Berman," Manlove said of Baldo and Richardson, "and that's paying dividends now. I think the lumps they felt as freshmen is definitely making them more confident."
Northern Lebanon 56, Littlestown 22
Janelle Kress 1 1-2 4, Jill Gauthier 1 3-4 5, Aley Abate 2 0-0 4, Allexa Morgan 0 1-2 1, Grace Midkiff 0 0-0 0, Molly Watkins 0 0-0 0, Lindsey Snyder 3 0-0 8, Madion Grothe 0 0-0 0. Totals — 7 5-8 22
Cassiah Ray 0 1-2 1, Liz Voight 4 0-0 9, Megan Brandt 7 4-4 18, Amber Kintzer 2 0-0 4, Jenna Wentling 0 0-0 0, Emma Kelliher 1 2-2 4, Zara Zerman 4 1-1 9, Zoe Zerman 4 2-4 11, RaeAnn Lessing 0 0-0 0 . Totals — 22 10-13 56
Northern Lebanon 13 18 15 10 — 56
Littlestown 6 2 8 6 — 22
3-point goals — L: Kress, Snyder 2, NL: Voight, Zoe Zerman
Palmyra 51, Kennard-Dale 18
Martonick 2 0-0 4, McKeon 1 0-2 2, Halczuk 1 2-2 4, Swanson 1 0-0 2, Kopko 1 0-1 2, Dressel 1 0-0 2, Zimmerman 1 0-0 2 Totals — 8 2-5 18.
Baldo 5 3-5 13, McLucas 3 0-1 8, Schultz 2 0-1 4, Richardson 5 2-2 13, Garcia 0 0-0 0, Copeland 3 6-8 13, Wadas 0 0-2 0, St. Clair 0 0-2 0. Totals — 18 11-21 51.
3-point goals — KD: none. Palmyra: McLucas 2, Richardson, Copeland.