BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – With a merky future, now is the time to be an Annville-Cleona girls’ basketball player. But not only are the Little Dutchmen living in the moment, they’re embracing it.
On Saturday afternoon, Annville-Cleona won for the second time in less than 19 hours, dismissing Lebanon High 60-39. Employing a balanced scoring attack, the Little Dutchmen overcame a sluggish beginning, carved out a little working margin for themselves in the middle periods and then pulled away in the fourth.
Annville-Cleona, which triumphed at Donegal on Friday evening, improved to 4-1 on the year. Coming off an emotional victory at rival Cedar Crest on Thursday, the Cedars slipped to 1-3.
“We played good. We played hard,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Jamie Podjed, whose program does not field a junior varsity squad. “We haven’t quite mastered how to win, just because we haven’t been in that position a lot. Games are different than practice. But we have a lot of varsity experience. A lot of my starters have been playing since they were freshmen.
“We’re learning how to win,” Podjed continued. “We’ve gotten better. Our very first game against Conrad Weiser went to overtime, and just from then to now we’ve learned. It’ll come.”
“I was nervous about this game,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “We had a very emotional victory on Thursday night. I was trying to find a way to keep that energy alive. But we came out flat, not motivated. We can’t win with one or two players taking over. You don’t get to play your rival every night. Today we lost to ourselves.”
After trailing by as much as six points early, Podjed called a timeout two minutes into the second stanza. Whatever she said, the Little Dutchmen took to heart, as they outscored Lebanon 15-0 before the break to carry a 26-17 lead to the locker room.
During the decisive burst, Annville-Cleona got five points from Alisha Wengert and four from Elaina Wanamaker. The Little Dutchmen would never trail again.
“We look to do transition and pressure defense. That’s our thing,” said Podjed. “But when you’re up ten points in the third quarter, you’ve got to back off a little bit and not force it. Today’s big lesson was playing with foul trouble. Learning how to play when you’re in the lead. Play aggressive, but not foul. Sometimes we do silly fouls.
“I don’t know the specific time of it, but I really thought Alisha Wengert stepped up,” added Podjed. “Tori (Siebecker) made some really good decisions. She backed it out a little and settled us. She’s our leader and has taken that role to heart. Her scoring average this year is down, but everyone else’s is up. We have multiple weapons.”
“I don’t think we were physically tired,” said Brewer. “It’s a young team, one that hasn’t been through the ups and downs of a season. But it doesn’t matter who you play, you’ve got to be ready.”
With four scorers reaching double figures, the Little Dutchmen’s attack was ultra-flexible. T. Siebecker, Lebanon County’s leading scorer from a year ago, showed the way with 15 points, both sister Alex Siebecker and Wanamaker registered 11 points and Kayla Parks recorded 10.
Lebanon senior guard Sadie Eisenhour netted 10 points, as did teammate Lauren Chambers.
“I don’t think there’s been anything I haven’t expected,” said Podjed. “I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet. We need to learn how to play with the lead. But there’s been nothing surprising so far. We have all of our starters back from last year.”
“The thing I was most impressed about was their balanced scoring,” said Brewer of the Little Dutchmen. “We had to stop five people. When you don’t come to play against a good team – look at the scoreboard – that’s what happens.”
Lebanon opened the second half with a three-pointer from Shaela Shellenhamer that pulled it to within 26-20, but that was as close as it would come. Annville-Cleona then held the Cedars without a point for a 3:46 span of the fourth quarter and opened a 56-35 bulge.
“They play hard,” said Podjed of the Cedars. “They feed off of his (Brewwer’s) energy. You can tell they’re young. They don’t quite have the confidence. But I never felt comfortable with our lead.”
“I watched them (the Little Dutchmen) play on film,” said Brewer. “They play hard. They defend. They rebound the heck out of the basketball. They’re pretty good. She (Podjed) doesn’t have numbers, but they’re solid. They’re going to do well. They’re not going to be out of many games.”
Using four points from Chambers and an inside move by Anna Haitos, Lebanon pieced together a modest 6-2 burst to grab a 13-8 lead with 1:25 left in the first period.
“We talked about taking a step forward,” said Brewer. “But we took a step back. I’m very disappointed. Thursday we did some things very well, but we didn’t build on them. It’s disappointing that the emotion was sucked out of them (his players). We’ve got to get up for games against everyone.”
“We kind of played into their hands in the first quarter,” said Podjed of the Cedars. “We played to their level. I think it (Friday night’s win at Donegal) factored into the outcome. I thought there was a point in the third quarter where we played lazy defense. It was fatigue. That was a game for us last night (Friday). It wasn’t easy.
“The program is progressing,” Podjed concluded. “These girls were playing together long before I was here. That helps with the team chemistry. It’s a little bit of both (having a good group and the program progressing). We’ve been building and working on things.”