BY JEFF FALK
ASSUMPTION HILL – They’re both hard-working, defensive-minded, blue-collar clubs. The difference is that one has seniors, shooting and some clutch players.
On Friday night, those differences paid huge dividends for the Annville-Cleona boys’ basketball team, as they downed their rivals from Lebanon Catholic 40-32. With senior sniper Alec Wizar showing the way, the Little Dutchmen out-performed the Beavers in prime time.
Both teams entered the fray with identical records, but Annville-Cleona improved to 6-7 overall and 3-4 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Lebanon Catholic is now 5-8 on the season and 1-6 in the section.
“The big part of the game was when Alec was fouled on a three, and he made two of three free throws,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Justin Edwards. “He took over the game after that.”
“Here’s the difference in the game,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Scott Clentimack. “They had a go-to guy and we didn’t. Wizar had nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. Jaylon (Colon) did an unbelievable job on him, but a guy like that is going to get his. After he made two of three free throws, he scored five or six points in-a-row. That was the key time of the game.”
Wizar’s pair of charity tosses with 6:13 remaining gave the Little Dutchmen a 31-28 lead and sparked A-C to its decisive run. Wizar followed that up with a jumper, a three-pointer and a drive to the hole, as Annville-Cleona hit the Beavers with a 8-0 run to open a 39-30 lead with 1:14 remaining.
Of course, the fact that the Little Dutchmen held Lebanon Catholic scoreless for a five-minute span of crunch time was also critical.
“I knew the shots were going to fall eventually,” said Wizar. “My teammates found me. But I was frustrated for a while.”
“I’m just happy to get out of here with a win,” said Edwards. “We played hard. I wouldn’t say we played especially well, but hard. That’s something we’ve been focusing on.”
“We have trouble scoring the ball,” said Clentimack. “We don’t have any consistent shooters. How do you do that? You keep working at it, keep working at it.
“We’ve always had kids who can shoot the ball,” Clentimack added. “It’s a physical thing and a mental thing. This game is as much mental as it is physical.”
Wizar collected an even dozen points, while junior Timmy Orr matched that output for Catholic. Annville-Cleona overcame a five-for-14 night at the charity stripe by outscoring the Beavers 15-0 from beyond the arc.
“It’s important to me,” said Edwards of the A-C/LC rivalry. “I know there’s a lot of guys who haven’t been coming to games who were here tonight. I had guys wishing me luck and texting me today. I know our players were excited before the game. It’s all that it’s ever been.
“When both teams are good, it’s a great rivalry,” Edwards continued. “When both teams aren’t, it’s a great rivalry. And when one team is good, it’s a great rivalry.”
“Personally, I think it’s right there with Lebanon-Cedar Crest,” said Clentimack of the rivalry. “I know we have other rivalries, but I don’t think there’s any more important than this one. This place was packed for the JV game. It’s intense, but I think there’s mutual respect. But when it’s over, everybody shakes hands and they go their own way.”
On treys from Wizar and Tyson Hayes, the Little Dutchmen tallied the last six points of the opening stanza to establish a 14-8 advantage. Annville-Cleona led 20-16 at the break.
But Lebanon Catholic closed the third period with a 6-2 burst, and when Alex Frattaroli knocked down a free throw 35 seconds into the fourth the Beavers had a 28-27 edge.
“It’s hard to say where we are one day to the next,” said Edwards. “We took a severe beating last week. We were almost questioning ourselves a little bit. We’ve been focusing on playing hard. When we do that we give ourselves a chance to win.
“They’re (the Beavers) a scrappy bunch of guys,” Edwards continued. “That’s been their M.O. for awhile. Timmy’s (Orr) sort of their go-to guy. If their numbers were a little better, they’d be dangerous.”
“We played hard, but we’re getting to the point of the season when moral victories aren’t going to do much good,” said Clentimack. “It’s getting late, not that we can’t build on it. I think realistically, we could double our win total, which would be ten, get into districts and have a chance. I don’t know if we’re going to get there. But it doesn’t mean our expectations have changed.
“I see a well-coached team (Annville-Cleona),” added Clentimack. “I know Justin and his background. I knew he’d do a great job and they’d be fundamentally sound. I knew they’d be tough and physical.”