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Brandt lifts Northern Lebanon in OT

Megan Brandt's length-of-the-floor driving layup as time expired in overtime propelled Northern Lebanon to a 45-43 overtime win over Milton Hershey in a district playoff opener on Tuesday night.

Northern Lebanon girls basketball coach Ken Battistelli says junior forward Megan Brandt isn't the type of kid who enjoys drawing attention to herself.

Apparently she will make an exception when her team's season is on the line.

With Brandt's refuse-to-lose mentality - and game-winning,end-to-end driving layup as time expired - taking center stage, the Vikings authored another unforgettable chapter in their storied season on Wednesday night, pulling out a heart-stopping 45-43 overtime victory over Milton Hershey in a District Three Class AAA opening-round thriller at jam-packed Northern Lebanon High School.

In a world of trouble all night against the 15th-seeded Spartans (16-7), No. 2 Northern Lebanon appeared headed for the bitter end after floor leader Zoe Zerman fouled out with 4:42 left and the visitors up 32-29.

But hard-working 5-foot-9 junior forward Brandt would not allow her team to be denied, pouring in 14 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter and OT to send the  Vikings into Saturday's quarterfinal round opposite nemesis Lancaster Catholic.

The third meeting between 24-2 NL and L-L champ Catholic is set for 7:30 p.m. at Garden Spot. And it would be feisty Milton Hershey instead if not for Brandt's drive-the-length-of-the-floor-through-traffic game-winner after Aisha Freeman's three free throws with 7.5 ticks left seemed to beckon a second OT.

"Oh my," Brandt said, when asked to recount the play she and the Vikings will never forget. "The only thing Battistelli said was, 'Get the ball to Brandt', and 'Brandt, you're going to the hole.' I was just going up the floor dribbling, not knowing where anyone is, and just looking at the rim. There were three people in front of me...I just can't believe it went in."

"She went to that special place late in the game where only superheroes can go," Battistelli said with a smile. "And she did exactly what we said at the end. I said, 'If (Freeman) makes all three you're gonna get the ball and you'll have more than enough time. And you're just gonna find a way to get to the rim, and you're gonna make it.' And God almighty if she didn't do exactly that."

Ironically, it may have been the easiest NL bucket of the night. Milton Hershey was simply sensational, outworking the Vikes for much of the contest on the boards and for loose balls, while getting 14 well-earned points apiece from Taya Wadsworth and Isatu Fofanah.

The Spartans never trailed by more than four and appeared poised to pull the upset after Fofanah buried a '3' with 7:15 left for a 28-22 lead.

And after Zerman was whistled for her fifth foul on a charging call midway through the fourth, NL was staring at the imminent end to its charmed season.

Fortunately, Brandt, backed up by 10 points from Liz Voight and 9 from Zerman, never blinked.

"When Zoe fouled out, we knew it was gonna be hard to recover. But we knew we could do it," Brandt said. "I knew without Zoe somebody was gonna have to pick up everything and I tried my best. I wasn't going off without another game."

After regulation ended in a 35-35 stalemate, Freeman put the Spartans back in front 27 ticks into the four-minute OT, and Wadsworth added a free throw for a 38-35 lead with 2:45 to go.

Then Hurricane Brandt swept in with back-to-back buckets to put NL in front until Freeman's free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt in the waning seconds.

No second OT, though. Brandt wasn't having it.

"The amazing thing about Megan is that is exactly counter to her personality," Battistelli said. "She is not the type of kid to want to stand out. But because she is so unselfish, she has changed her whole persona for the good of the team. That is one amazing kid."

See, being the center of attention isn't so bad.

"That was probably the best thing I've ever experienced." Brandt said, beaming. "It was the coolest thing...I don't think I've ever had an end-of-the game buzzer-beater. It was amazing."

Northern Lebanon 45, Milton Hershey 43 (OT)

Milton Hershey (43)

Aisha Freeman 2 4-5 8, Atiya McDonald 1 3-6 5, Taya Wadsworth 6 2-2 14, Autumn Beattie 0 0-0 0, Isatu Fofanah 5 2-3 14, Olivia Lewis 1 0-1 2.Totals— 15 11-17 43.

Northern Lebanon (45)

Cassiah Ray 0 0-0 0, Liz Voight 2 5-6 10, Amber Kintzer 0 0-0 0, Megan Brandt 10 6-10 26, Zoe Zerman 3 2-2 9, Raeann Lessing 0 0-0 0, Jenna Wentling 0 0-0 0 .Totals— 15 13-18 45.

Milton Hershey _ 7 _ 3 _ 15 _ 10  _8 _ — _ 43

Northern Lebanon _ 7 _ 7 _ 8 _ 13 _ 10 _ — _ 45

3-point goals— MH 2 (Fofanah 2) NL (Voight, Zerman)