Led by 25 points from Zoe Zerman, the Vikings knocked off previously unbeaten New Oxford, 53-38

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It's not that the Northern Lebanon girls basketball team was playing poorly prior to this week. Far from it, as evidenced by the 6-1 record it carried into the Lebanon Booster Club Holiday Tournament that began on Tuesday.

But something - barely noticeable and hard to define - was still missing.

Breaking: It's not missing anymore.

With a pair of performances reminiscent of the NL team that captured the hearts and minds of its school and community during a run to the state playoffs a season ago, the Vikings took home the holiday tourney title, following up Tuesday's gritty 47-36 win over McCaskey with a 53-38 triumph over previously unbeaten New Oxford at Lebanon High on Wednesday night.

Senior guard Zoe Zerman set the tone for the win, dropping in 8 of her game-high 25 points in the first quarter to key a defining 20-7 run through the opening frame that gave NL control it would never fully relinquish.

They never really went away, but it still seems appropriate to say the Vikings are back.

"It looked like we were in a good place for this game," said NL coach Ken Battistelli."It was like, 'OK, this (New Oxford) is a really good team, so we can just go out and be ourselves and just play.' Play and have fun and just enjoy the opportunity and challenge. I think this was a really big game for us. It seemed like we played to try to win instead of worrying about possibly losing."

That attitude was apparent from the start, as a Liz Voight 3-pointer less than a minute into the game gave the Vikes a lead they would not hand over and a hop in their step that would not disappear, even amid early foul trouble and a second half run by the Colonials that cut the lead to six at one point.

"We seemed to get our defense all together and be able to play as one unit again," said senior forward and tournament MVP Megan Brandt, "and that's really important for us."

The Vikings function best as a unit overall when Zerman plays like she did Wednesday night, attacking the basket at will, getting others involved and generally serving as the floor leader of a team that is tough for anyone to handle when on top of its game.

"She's so hard for a person to deal with," Battistelli said of the multi-talented Zerman. "If a guard plays her, she can just out-physical her. If a big kid plays her, she can handle the ball and penetrate like a guard. And she's a foul magnet, she takes a beating so well. Her aggressiveness leads to a better life for everyone."

"I think we just came together better," said Zerman of the last two games. "I think we knew they were gonna come after us, and we had to step up. And I think we did step up. I know I caught myself thinking (earlier in the season), 'What happens if we lose?' And you can't think like that, because then you lose."

Northern Lebanon, which also got 10 big points from unsung hero Amber Kintzer, led 31-18 at the half, only to see New Oxford storm back to within 37-31 on a three-point play by Kaelyn Long with 2:17 left in the period.

But from there, Kintzer and Zerman closed the third with back-to-back buckets to push the lead back to double digits for good.

"We all kinda got our confidence back, playing defense and offense," Zerman said. "It was definitely more team-like. It's exciting, a good way to bring in the new year."

Battistelli could not agree more.

"We looked like us again," he said. "And that's great. That makes me so happy."

Joining Brandt and Zerman on the All-Tournament team were New Oxford's Long and Haley Luckabaugh, McCaskey's Ahnera Parker and Lebanon's Destiny Infante.

McCaskey took the consolation game over Lebanon, 66-26. Jaileen Short led McCaskey with 20 points, and Infante paced Lebanon with 12 points.

McCaskey 66, Lebanon 26
McCaskey (66)
Johnson 4 0-0 8​, Ojeda 0 0-0 0​, Banks 0 1-2 1​, Taylor 3 1-2 7​, Short 9 0-0 20​, Parker 1 0-0 2​, Gibson 3 0-0 6​, Allen 0 1-2 1​, Perry 2 1-3 5​, Richardson 7 2-3 16​. Totals — 29 6-12 66
Lebanon (26)
Infante 3 3-4 12​, Sanders 1 0-0 3​, Roth 0 0-0 0​, Yorty 0 0-0 0​, Zechman 2 0-2 4​, Ortolaza 0 1-3 1​, Gass 2 0-0 6​, Bowman 0 0-0 0​, Deufel 0 0-0 0​. Totals — 8 4-9 26
McCaskey 22 16 19 9  — 66
Lebanon 9 6 2 9  — 26
3-point goals  — M:
 Short 2, L: Infante 3, Gass 2, Sanders


Northern Lebanon 53, New Oxford 38
New Oxford (38)
Stabler 0 0-0 0​, Sauter 1 2-3 4​, Berryhill 4 2-2 11​, Still 2 0-0 6​, Luckabaugh 3 0-0 7​, Long 3 4-7 10​, Ross 0 0-0 0​, Slonaker 0 0-0 0​. Totals — 13 8-12 38.
Northern Lebanon (53)
Ray 0 0-0 0​, Voight 2 3-4 9​, Brandt 3 0-2 6​, Kintzer 5 0-0 10​, Wentling 0 0-0 0​, Zara Zerman 1 1-1 3​, Zoe Zerman 7 11-15 25​. Totals — 18 15-22 53.
Northern Lebanon 20 11 10 12  — 53
New Oxford 7 11 13 7  — 38
3-point goals  — NO: 
Still 2, Luckabaugh, Berryhill, NL: Voight 2

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