The Northern Lebanon boys' basketball team upended county-rival Elco 57-36 in a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three affair Friday night.
The Vikings' victory is the second in six days and fifth straight overall against the Raiders. Elco also lost to the blue and gold last Saturday in the finale of NL's Holiday Tournament, 65-51.
"To (Elco's) credit, they played a real strong game, I just think in the second half we started to figure out some things we weren't doing in the first half and some shots started falling for us," NL head coach Gary Bouchette said. "I thought we started playing more of a team game in the second half."
Much like last week's championship game, the Raiders faded down the stretch. NL doubled-up Elco's second-half output Friday, outscoring its guests 33-16 over the final 16 minutes. Sam Light dropped a dozen of his game-high 22 points after the break.
"Elco did a great job defensively, and they played some tough defense all night on my key players," Bouchette said. "I thought No. 24 (Robert Shultz) played Sam tough in the first half. And, I think we were settling for shots."
Leading 24-20 at halftime, Northern Lebanon pulled away in the third quarter behind the L-L League's defending scoring champion. Light, a sub 6-foot point guard, connected for nine in the frame, including a demoralizing offensive putback to extend the lead to double digits, 38-28, with 2:05 remaining.
Daymon Long followed with another bucket off an offensive rebound, and Pat Stevens closed the quarter with a steal and finger roll for a 14-point cushion. Stevens, who missed the past three games with an ankle injury, provided a giant spark off the bench. His second quarter block and assist to Light changed the complexion of the contest. Even with starts Richard Iwuagwu and Jon Lum in foul trouble, the Vikings never looked back after trailing by as many five early in the second quarter.
"As the game plays out, we always seem to hit a lull," said Elco boss Brad Conners. "Every team has a lull, but it seems like every other team comes out of that lull. When we get in one, we get stuck in a funk."
The Raiders dressed just one player with varsity experience prior to this season. Senior Derek Miller was the only Raider in uniform to score a bucket in 2011-12. Miller averaged 3.8 points per game in 22 games a year ago.
"We're extremely young, we're playing out of position, and we really don't have a designated scorer yet," added Conners. "And, we're going up against teams like this every night."
Colton Lawrence opened strong for Elco, draining six consecutive free throws between the first and second quarters to keep his team within striking distance.
"They rebounded well; I thought they won the boards in the first half," added Bouchette. "I thought they did a great job of moving without the ball. They did a lot of dribble handoffs, a lot of slips and I don't think we were playing that well. We were trailing everything."
Isaac Ray ignited the Viking offense in the second quarter with a 3-ball from the corner and a 5-for-5 effort from the line. NL's quarterback of the future scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
"I don't care what he scores," said Bouchette. "Tonight, he dove on the floor to get the ball. He did that twice for me. Those are the little things that are going to help us win games. He stepped up and played a phenomenal game."
Long, nicknamed Sunshine, also provided plenty of warmth, as well. He chipped in with seven points to go with a slew of rebounds and assists.
"The reason (Daymon) is here is because of his work ethic. He wasn't good in seventh grade, but he was the first one done with every drill, he was the first one back in sprints and he hustled," explained Bouchette. "That's why he made the team. Ever since then, he's bought into it and worked his butt off. Now he's playing varsity ball."
The Raiders (3-8 overall, 1-5 in the league) return to Myerstown on Monday to meet Manheim Central at 8 p.m. The Vikings host undefeated Donegal on Monday at 8 p.m.
"They're solid. They play very smart. They know what their teammates are doing," Bouchette said of the Indians. "They play tough defense and their height is tough in our league when you start kids that are all over 6-feet. ... We'll take this one tonight and take it one game at time."