FREDERICKSBURG - The offensive execution was a bit spotty, a bit up and down, which is to be expected in the season's first weekend of games played for keeps.
No worries, though, the Northern Lebanon girls basketball team more than compensated with mid-February-like defense and overall intensity.
It was an early December tip-off tourney championship game contested with a ferocity befitting a postseason encounter, as the Vikings trotted out their no guts-no glory playoff form of a season ago to dismantle a promising Palmyra squad 43-24 in the title game of their Lady Viking tip-off event on Saturday night.
On the way to a 2-0 start to the season, NL held Palmyra without a point for the game's first 7:29, then got enough done offensively behind junior guard Liz Voight's 20-point explosion to take a double-digit lead early in the third quarter that it would not relinquish.
For anyone who witnessed the Vikings' stirring run to the state quarterfinals a season ago, it was a performance that looked awfully familiar.
"The thing that I liked a lot about this game is that we were mentally up,"NL coach Ken Battistelli said. "It didn't seem like a team that was satisfied with anything. We were nervous, which was a good thing and we were jacked, which was a good thing. Now that's not always the thing to help you play well, but those were the emotions I definitely wanted to see out of my group."
To their credit, the young Cougars didn't shrink from the fight, but the opening scoreless stretch, which ended with a Hayley Schultz '3' with 31 seconds to go in the first quarter, put them in a hole they could not escape from, given the defensive intensity that was in their faces all night.
"I don't think the pressure affected us too much early, because we got looks," said Palmyra coach Mary Manlove. "But you have to finish against their physicality, and I don't think we were prepared for their physicality. It was a good learning experience for us. It helped me see what we need to work on, harder, come our conference games."
After finally prying the lid off the basket, Palmyra got to within 10-8 on a Schultz free throw with 4:44 left in the half, but from there Voight led an 11-4 run to close the half, then scored the first five points of the second half to put NL in full control.
Voight's performance helped compensate for 'off' offensive nights from catalysts Zoe Zerman and Megan Brandt, who totaled six and eight points, respectively, while still bringing plenty of toughness to the table.
"Liz was a bullet tonight," Battistelli said. "She was shooting, she was slashing, getting offensive rebounds. She can be dominant. I love the fact that our two big guns didn't have to play great. That makes me happy. She (Voight) was the difference between a four-quarter struggle and a pretty comfortable win."
Manlove had some things to he happy about, too. Including the fact that her Cougars would have to play a long time this season to see a team of Northern Lebanon's quality again.
"There can be no better preparation for facing a tough opponent," Manlove said of NL. "I don't know many teams that are gonna beat Northern Lebanon this year. They're just loaded. I think anybody will seem easier after going against Northern Lebanon."
Northern Lebanon 43, Palmyra 24
Baldo 4 0-0 8. McLucas 0 0-0 0, Schultz 3 1-2 8, Copeland 1 0-0 2, Garcia 0 1-2 1, Richardson 1 2-4 5, Wadas 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 4-8 24.
Northern Lebanon (43)
Ray 0 0-0 0, Voight 7 4-4 20, Brandt 3 2-2 8, Kintzer 2 0-0 4, Zoe Zerman 3 0-0 6, Zara Zerman 2 0-0 5, Wentling 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 6-6 43.
Palmyra 3 9 5 7 - 24
Northern Lebanon 6 15 14 8 - 43
3-point field goals: P - Schultz, Richardson, NL - Voight 2, Zara Zerman