Unselfishness, heart key to district championships
In addition to sharing a home county and the twin glories of celebrating district championships at Giant Center on Friday, the Northern Lebanon and Lebanon Catholic girls basketball teams have something else in common: The knowledge that to accomplish great things together, great sacrifices must be made.
And also the wisdom to remember, even in times of crisis, unselfishness is the most necessary ingredient to that success.
Both the Vikings and Beavers are blessed with great talent. Northern Lebanon seniors Zoe Zerman and Megan Brandt are quality players and leaders who will be playing Division II college ball next season. Deservedly so.
Lebanon Catholic's Alexis Hill is one of the top players in the area and the state, a breathtaking athlete who seems to get better and more dangerous each time she steps on the floor.
But the championship performances of the Vikings and Beavers on Friday were also marked by qualities that don't show up in any box score.
For the Vikings, it was their resilience as a group. Struggling with a physical, feisty Bishop McDevitt club, Northern Lebanon appeared to be in a world of trouble when floor leader Zerman fouled out with 3:27 left and the score knotted at 34.
All the Vikings did from there was score the next five points - three by Brandt, two by senior unsung hero Amber Kintzer - to pull ahead to stay.
It wasn't easy, as they missed five straight free throws down the stretch that would have sealed the win more easily, but until the bitter end the five that remained on the floor - Brandt, Kintzer, Liz Voight, Cassiah Ray and Zara Zerman - left their hearts and souls on it. They simply would not be denied. Emphasis on 'they'.
"At no point do I ever think we can't do it," Brandt said. "We are a team of such strong heart and will. I definitely thought we could do it."
Northern Lebanon coach Ken Batiistelli, who deserves a lot of credit for creating the culture of teamwork that exists, has seen efforts like Friday's for much of the last two seasons. Seeing it take place on the big stage with the stakes so high, was almost overwhelming.
"What a game, what a memory, what an atmosphere," said NL coach Ken Battistelli."I'm so happy for these kids I can't even speak."
Then there was Lebanon Catholic, which reached the District 3 Promised Land for an unfathomable 19th time in large part due to the unselfishness of junior point guard Neesha Pierre, both Friday and all season long.
A slashing '2' guard her first two seasons, Pierre was forced into the point guard role when incumbent starter Mariah Sholly was unable to play this season due to personal reasons.
She dutifully stepped into the job and got better at it as the season went on, culminating with one of her better all-around performances of the season on Friday.
"I never expected to be the point guard and I kinda didn't like it at the beginning of the season," Pierre said. "But it was a blessing in disguise. It's gonna help me as a player overall, and it helps my teammates."
It also helped her head coach, Patti Hower, who was quick to sing Pierre's praises after Friday's triumph over Halifax.
"It shows you what a good person she is," Hower said. "She never said one negative thing about having to change positions. She accepted it, she worked at it."
And in part because she did, Lebanon Catholic joined Northern Lebanon in celebrating both a championship and the virtues of unselfishness.