BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – The Annville-Cleona girls’ basketball squad rode the emotional energy of Alex Siebecker’s career milestone as long as it possibly could. But ultimately reality set in, and when the crash came, it was severe.
On a Saturday night at Lebanon Valley College when Siebecker reached the 1,000-point plateau, the Little Dutchmen fell victim to a late Pine Grove run and dropped a 45-37 non-league decision to the visiting Cardinals. Battling foul difficulties, Annville-Cleona was hit by a devastating 11-1 Pine Grove spurt late in the fourth quarter that turned its one-point lead into a 42-33 deficit.
Hannah Fischer connected on one-of-two charity tosses 3:27 into the final stanza to give the Little Dutchmen a 32-31 edge. But that would prove to be Annville-Cleona’s final lead, as it misfired on five critical foul shots in crunch time.
Fischer’s successful free throw was the only point Annville-Cleona managed during a 6:31 span of the fourth quarter.
The loss was the second in as many nights for the Little Dutchmen, who were coming off a 44-19 loss to Garden Spot on Friday in which they scored a total of four points in the second half. The setback made Annville-Cleona 9-7 overall, while Pine Grove, a Class AA member of the Schuylkill County League, improved to 8-6 on the year.
Before the Cardinals’ pivotal run, the contest had featured four ties and seven lead changes. A Siebecker trey 26 seconds into the final stanza had staked Annville-Cleona to a 31-29 edge.
Needing four points to reach the coveted ‘Grand Gang’, Siebecker got it 2:46 into the contest on a stick back. After the offensive rebound had given the Little Dutchmen a 6-0 cushion, the game was momentarily halted and Siebecker was graced with a commemorative ball, flowers and balloons.
With fellow senior starters Kayla Parks and Gabby Battle confined to the pines, Siebecker was joined in the Annville-Cleona starting lineup by four sophomores. Siebecker, who truly is ‘poetry in motion’ finished her evening with 24 points, on seven deuces, a pair of treys and four-for-eight free throwing.
After Siebecker’s accomplishment was commemorated, the Cardinals, behind all-state guard Becky Evans, ran off a 16-4 burst to assume a 16-10 advantage. But the Little Dutchmen held the Cardinals to a mere two points during a six-minute span of the second quarter and took a 20-19 edge on an inside move from Meredith Bachman.
For the game, Annville-Cleona made good on only five of 11 foul shots. Pine Grove, which has gone 2-1 against Lebanon County competition this season, connected on 16 of 23 free throws and outscored the Little Dutchmen by 11 points there.
The third quarter featured back-and-forth action on both ends of the floor. A drive to the bucket and a three-pointer from Siebecker gave Annville-Cleona a 26-23 edge.
And a put back by teammate Taylor Winters two minutes later put the Little Dutchmen ahead 28-25.