Northern Lebanon girls roll in state opener
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There really is no such thing as an easy game in the state playoffs.
But on Friday night, the Northern Lebanon girls basketball team severely tested that school of thought.
In a PIAA Class 4A state opener at Lebanon High, the Vikings made short work of Murrell Dobbins CTE, routing the Philadelphia Public League reps, 74-16 in a thoroughly non-competitive affair.
Junior guard Liz Voight paced reigning district champ Northern Lebanon (26-2) with 20 points and senior floor leader Zoe Zerman added 18 as the Vikings steamrolled to a 48-6 halftime lead that brought the mercy rule into effect for the entire second half.
Next up for Northern Lebanon is a second round date with either Mifflinburg, a 37-28 winner over Allentown Central Catholic on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Safe to say, the next round won't be as easy for the Vikings. Not that it could be, given the unfortunate disparity in ability that characterized Friday's very un-state playoff-like contest.
"It'a hard," Northern Lebanon coach Ken Battistelli said of being part of such a lopsided affair. "Part of you is thankful because it's so stressful usually. Another part of me doesn't really enjoy it. You love the battle, you love the competition, but there's no part of you that likes embarrassing or making kids feel bad about themselves. It's very uncomfortable, but you don't want to tell your kids not to play.
"The most important thing is, after the game I told the kids they deserved that because of their finish in districts. It's a state win and we earned it. There's no shame in winning. We don't get to pick our opponent. We're proud to win and move on to the next round."
To their credit, the Vikings played with focus and intensity throughout, never falling into the trap of playing down to the level of the competition.
It was 10-0 less than three minutes into the game, midway through the second quarter until Dobbins, the District 12 No.5 seed and now 11-5 scored its second bucket of the night. By then it was 34-4 and the Vikings were already gassing up the buss for Tuesday night.
"That made me happy, too," Battistelli said of the way his squad performed. "Because you can get sloppy, it's easy to get sloppy. There's always little things, as a coach, you're trying to emphasize through a week of practice. And some of the things that I was trying to emphasize this week and for this game, showed themselves. Which is good because that means the message is still getting through."
Particularly pleasing for Battistelli was the play of Voight, who had been struggling a bit offensively heading into the game. But she endured no such difficulties Friday, leading four players in double figures as Zara Zerman and Megan Brandt added 13 and 11 points, respectively, to the blowout.
"If she gets in a good place that changes us," Battistelli said of Voight. "That makes us a whole lot more versatile. She looked like she was feeling pretty good out there."
And Battistelli was feeling pretty good as well. Any misgivings about such a non-competitive game were more than overshadowed by the fact that the Vikings are still dancing with mid-March beckoning.
"Honestly, I'm thrilled," he said. "I'm thrilled our little legs didn't have to get destroyed tonight. I'm thrilled that we came out of it healthy and happy. We've played enough big games now that playing one that doesn't make you have a heart attack isn't gonna kill us."
Northern Lebanon 74, Dobbins 16
Peterson-Miller 0 0-0 0, D. Johnson 0 0-0 0, C. Johnson 1 0-0 2, Wright 2 0-0 4, Ellerbee 2 0-0 4, Davis 2 0-0 4, Allen 1 0-0 2. Totals 8 0-0 16.
Northern Lebanon (74)
Ray 0 0-0 0, Voight 9 2-2 20, Brandt 5 1-2 11, Kintzer 1 0-0 2, Zoe Zerman 7 2-2 18, Zara Zerman 6 1-1 13, Lessing 3 0-0 6, Hubbard 1 0-0 2, Wentling 0 2-2 2. Totals: 32 8-9 74.
Dobbins 2 4 6 4 - 16
Northern Lebanon 21 27 16 10 - 74
3-pointers: NL - Zoe Zerman 2.