NL sitting pretty after knocking off Cocalico

By on January 27, 2016

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The more he talked, the more red his face got.

Tony DiMatteo, Cocalico’s normally mild-mannered girls basketball coach was boiling postgame Thursday, following his team’s first-place showdown with Northern Lebanon.

DiMatteo couldn’t hide his frustration when asked about the disparity in foul calls, which was a big factor in the Lady Vikings’ 47-35 victory.

Northern Lebanon went to the line 29 times (compared to Cocalico’s 16, of which it converted just six), including 26 trips in the second half. The Lady Vikings sank 18, as they built as double digit lead down the stretch.

And with Cocalico’s Emily White and Emily Fassnacht fouled out, Northern Lebanon then spread the floor in the fourth and drained the clock out for the win.

“(Northern Lebanon) plays hard, aggressive defense and I still have players fouling out,” DiMatteo said. “I’m not making excuses but it’s hard when Megan Gingrich is getting hit down there and I can’t get a call. It’s hard, my kids are frustrated because they are playing hard.”

Zoe Zerman scored a game-high 20 points while Megan Brandt chipped in with 16 points and 11 boards as the Lady Vikings (12-1 section, 18-1 overall) took a commanding two-game lead over Cocalico (10-3, 14-3) in the Section Three race with three games to go.

Two of the three Cocalico losses came at the hands of Northern Lebanon.

“I’m not taking anything away from them,” DiMatteo said. “They made their foul shots and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line. If we make our foul shots, we are in the game….it’s a one or two-point game and they can’t spread us out, so that’s our fault. I’m a little frustrated. I think we are just as good as them, but I give them all the credit in the world. They stuck it to us twice when they had to.”

Emily Fassnacht’s back-to-back three-pointers gave Cocalico an early 12-8 lead before NL canned two-straight threes&tstr; the second by Zerman at the buzzer&tstr; to give the Lady Vikings a 14-12 lead after one.

In the second quarter, Northern Lebanon increased its lead to eight points (22-14) before Cocalico’s Jasa Lorah (8 points) scored six-straight points to cut the deficit back to three at 22-19. However, after Zerman’s jumper from the top of the key put her team back up by five, a Lady Eagle turnover set up Brandt’s lay-up with one second to go to make it 26-19 NL at the break.

The fouls began to pile up for Cocalico as the Lady Eagles tried to cut into the NL advantage in the third quarter. Gingrich (8 points) converted a pair of field goals at close range, and White sank a pair of free throws. Still trailing by six late in the period, White appeared to give Cocalico a huge lift when she turned in a four-point play (was fouled on a three-pointer and sank the ensuing free throw) to cut it to just two (33-31) with 1:26 to go in the quarter.

However, Brandt hit one of two free throws before converting a basket on the post with five ticks to go to up the lead back to five heading to the fourth.

“We controlled everybody else,” DiMatteo said. “We said we got to give them one shot, and we didn’t. Brandt was the one that got the ball on the low post and stuck it to us. She was definitely the key.”

In the fourth, Cocalico got as close as 37-33 on a lay-up by White (9 points), but the Lady Vikings spread the floor and marched to the foul line to salt this one away. Although they didn’t sink a fourth-quarter field goal, NL shot 11-for-17 from the Charity Stripe down the stretch to nail down the victory.

“This one is done…we got to regroup,” DiMatteo said. “We want to make the (league) playoffs and that’s our focus.”

The Lady Eagles still are in excellent shape to do just that. With three to play, Cocalico is two games up on both Lampeter-Strasburg (8-5) and Elco (8-5).

Cocalico also is a shoe-in to make Districts. The Lady Eagles are currently ranked 11th in AAA and the top 20 teams advance.

Up next, Cocalico hosts Manheim Central Thursday before facing Palmyra in a non-league contest Saturday at 2 p.m. The Lady Eagles also host Donegal Monday night before closing out the regular season next Tuesday on the road at L-S.

 

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