SHAMOKIN - Because of that old crank Winter Storm Stella, the Northern Lebanon girls basketball team - and most of the rest of Pennsylvania - had to wait two extra days to play its second round state playoff game
Not ideal, but, as the Vikings showed on Thursday night when they finally got back on the court, well worth the wait.
Firing on all cylinders at both ends of the floor, Northern Lebanon advanced to the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row Thursday after battering Mifflinburg 51-25 in a PIAA Class 4A encounter at Shamokin Area High School.
Now 27-2 and awaiting the winner of Friday's Gwynedd Mercy-Greater Nanticoke encounter on either Saturday or Sunday at a site and time to be determined, the Viking stormed out to a 30-7 halftime lead and never looked back with the help of a game-high 16 points from junior guard Liz Voight and 15 and 13, respectively, from heart-and-soul seniors Megan Brandt and Zoe Zerman.
"I think if anything it helped us," Northern Lebanon coach Ken Battistelli said of the quality of his team's performance despite the snow-interrupted schedule. "I think we freshened up a little bit, got a couple extra days off. The snow was good, the kids slept in a little bit. But the last couple practices were pretty sharp. It looks like they're just in a really good place right now. They're all spunky and perky."
According to Voight, who led NL in scoring for the second straight game after struggling offensively early in the postseason, the Viking got in a hard practice Monday before the storm, then got some shots up during a Wednesday workout session, so they were pretty much set to go when the bell rang on Thursday.
"We were actually OK," Voight said, "and we got to watch film and everything. I think our defense came together and our offense is coming along. We need to take better shots, like me too, but we're hitting right now. It's huge (to be in the quarterfinals again), but it's sad because I'm gonna miss the seniors (when the season is over). I'm so thankful for them. It's sad but you gotta enjoy while it's here."
But if the Vikings keep performing the way they did on Thursday, they'll send seniors Zerman, Brandt and Amber Kintzer out with a smile.
"I liked our offensive confidence," Battistelli said. "Liz and Zo, it seemed, were both very confident with their offensive game. And it was nice to see late in the game we worked the ball inside to Brandt. That's a three-headed scoring monster. When those three are playing like it's the playoffs, we've got some spunk."
And despite what the score indicated, Mifflinburg was a legit opponent, coming in at 21-6 after a first round win over Allentown Central Catholic. But the District 4 runner-up never knew what hit it after NL bolted to an 8-0 lead 1:50 into the game to set the tone for the domination.
"I saw them on film plenty, and I think they are very talented," Battistelli said. "But I noticed they're pretty young, and that's an obstacle all in itself. I think we were more ready than they were, and when things go wrong that wrecks your confidence. I give us credit for doing that to them, We did a nice job at the beginning and kinda took them out of their game a little."
"We watched film of them and they were good," Voight said, echoing Battistelli's comments. "And we were kinda worried about that. But if we just play defense it usually works out."
For the 27th time in 29 tries this season, it all worked out just fine for the Vikings on Thursday. This weekend, they'll get a chance to do it again in a bid to make the 4A Final Four.
Northern Lebanon 51, Mifflinburg 25
Stauffer 5 0-0 10, Ri. Griffith 2 1-2 5, Re. Griffith 2 0-0 6, Rowe 2 0-0 4, Valentine 0 0-2 0. Totals: 11 1-4 25
Northern Lebanon (51)
Ray 0 0-0 0, Voight 6 2-2 16, Brandt 6 3-4 15, Kintzer 1 0-0 2, Zoe Zerman 6 1-2 13, Zara Zerman 0 0-0 0, Lessing 2 1-2 5, Wentling 0 0-0 0, Hubbard 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 7-10 51.
Mifflinburg 4 3 11 7 - 25
Northern Lebanon 14 16 13 8 - 51
3-pointers: M - Re. Griffith., NL - Voight 2