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Fourth time is the charm for Northern Lebanon

The Vikings avenged three previous defeats to Lancaster Catholic with a 54-45 victory in the second round of the state playoffs on Wednesday night

HERSHEY - If at first, second and third you don't succeed...

Hit 'em with everything you've got on the fourth try and go out and create a lifetime memory, apparently.

The Northern Lebanon girls' basketball team finally tossed the Lancaster Catholic monkey off its back on Wednesday night, shaking off three close-but-not-quite defeats to their nemesis this season by stunning the mighty Crusaders 54-45 in a PIAA Class AAA second-round state playoff clash in front of a raucous packed house at Milton Hershey's Spartan Center.

And the Vikings did so in their typically feisty fashion, getting off the deck from the 21-point first quarter haymaker Catholic landed to outscore the reigning Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three Class AAA champions 43-24 over the final three quarters and land a spot in Saturday's quarterfinal round. Waiting for Northern Lebanon (28-3) will be District Seven No. 6 seed South Park at a site and time to be determined.

Don't be surprised if the Vikings float there after their most charming win of a thoroughly charmed season.

Northern Lebanon upsets Lancaster Catholic in PIAA playoffs
After suffering three losses to the Crusaders earlier in the year, the Vikings were finally able to defeat Lancaster Catholic, 54-45 to advance to the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.
Video by John Buffone

"I think we did it the way we tried to do it all the other times," said NL coach Ken Battistelli of finally breaking through against the Crusaders. "This time, we just had more. Everybody rose (to the occasion). The first couple minutes, I was like, 'Oh, no.' But we challenged 'em and challenged 'em and challenged 'em, and they rose. They all had moments that were huge and they gave everything they had for 32 minutes."

Especially the last 24 minutes. The first eight didn't go so well for the Vikings, as Catholic (29-2), fronted by senior center Caroline Scarff, came out white-hot from the floor, drilling shots from all over the place en route to jumping to a 21-11 lead after one quarter.

But Northern Lebanon, led by a brilliant 19-point effort from sophomore guard Liz Voight and 32 combined points from junior catalysts Megan Brandt and Zoe Zerman, refused to take no for an answer this time. The Vikes climbed back to within 26-23 at the half, then took the fight to Catholic the rest of the way, pulling in front for good on a Zerman bucket 35 seconds into the fourth quarter.

"It's a great feeling. I can't explain it," said a beaming Voight. "We felt coming in we had nothing to lose, and we didn't. I don't know how we did it, but we did it."

They did it with defense, allowing just three more points over the final three quarters combined than they did in the first alone, and holding Catholic's freshman phenom Kiki Jefferson to a mere eight points along the way.

"The one thing I told them was, 'Nobody shoots like that for four quarters, and nobody shoots like that against us,'" Battistelli said of the hot early shooting the Crusaders produced. '"They'll get tired, and those shots won't go in.' And you know how I am, I challenged the heck out of them, questioned everything about them. And they did what they do all the time. They give so much. They're wonderful. They're just beautiful, beautiful kids."

The Vikings gave the most over the final 4:33 of the third quarter, turning a 31-23 deficit into a 35-33 lead with the help of six of Brandt's 17 points and a huge '3' by Cassiah Ray.

Zerman's aforementioned bucket early in the fourth then gave NL the lead for good, and 22-for-31 foul shooting from Voight, Brandt, and Zerman, much of it down the stretch, kept it from getting away.

It all culminated with a championship-like celebration afterwards, as the one mountain the Vikings couldn't seem to climb was finally scaled.

"It was the best feeling ever," Voight said of the emotions following the final buzzer.

"They're great and we beat them," Battistelli said. "We beat them fair and square. You can't have a rivalry until you can win, and we beat the biggest mental hurdle that exists for us, and we did it on the biggest of stages. It's just beautiful."

 Northern Lebanon 54, Lancaster Catholic 45

Northern Lebanon (54)

Cassiah Ray 1 0-0 3, Liz Voight 5 8-10 19, Megan Brandt 5 7-10 17, Amber Kintzer 0 0-0 0, Zoe Zerman 4 7-11 15, Raeann Lessing 0 0-0 0, Jenna Wentling 0 0-0 0 Totals— 15 22-31 54

Lancaster Catholic (45)

Lauren Mills 3 0-0 8, Annaliese Schreder 3 0-0 8, Kiki Jefferson 2 3-7 8, Julia Breit 2 0-0 4, Caroline Scarff 6 0-0 12, Corina Rivera 2 1-2 5, Lillian Fritz 0 0-0 0, Crista Ricci 0 0-0 0 Totals— 18 4-9 45. .

Northern Lebanon _ 11 _ 12 _ 12 _ 19 _ — _ 54

Lancaster Catholic _ 21 _ 5 _ 7 _ 12 _ — _ 45

3-point goals— NL 2 (Voight, Ray), LC 5 (Mills 2, Schreder 2, Jefferson).