LEBANON – It is the purest form of non-verbal communication. It’s like wearing your heart on your sleeve.
It’s called ‘body language’.
It started with hands on hips and slumped shoulders. It continued with pouts and downward glances. And it ended with swollen eyes and tears.
What began as frustration and dismay turned into disappointment and despair – and ultimately heartache.
Not a word was uttered, but it spoke volumes.
On Saturday afternoon at Lebanon High School, the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball team’s season of rebirth came crashing down, in the form of a 45-29 loss to Lourdes Regional, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A tournament. The Beavers experienced difficulties defending the patient and hot-shooting Red Raiders, lost out on loose balls they normally come up with, struggled to run their half-court offense and were doomed by a 12-2 run early in the second quarter that provided Lourdes with a lead it would never relinquish.
Fresh off its 17th District Three championship, the setback ended Lebanon Catholic’s campaign at 17-10. Lourdes Regional, the third-place finisher out of District Four, moved into Tuesday’s second round of the state playoffs with a 19-7 mark.
“We saw that a little bit,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower of her club’s collective body language. “We missed some easy stuff early, and if we had made some of them it may have changed that body language. But Lourdes played really well.
“There’s always tears in the locker room after a final game,” Hower continued. “Eight of the 11 girls in there are freshmen. Now that we’ve got a taste of it, hopefully it’s going to make us work harder. We have exceeded our expectations. We’ve come a long way. We improved tremendously.”
It should be noted that Lebanon Catholic’s initial frustration was caused more by the Red Raiders’ inspired play than anything it did or did not do.
Lourdes Regional’s decisive 12-2 spurt turned a 12-all deadlock into a 24-14 bulge, with 2:34 of the second period remaining, and served to force the Beavers out of their base 2-3 zone defense. Then in a third quarter in which it managed only five points, Lebanon Catholic’s offensive woes multiplied.
“It certainly wasn’t our best game,” said Hower, whose charges had shown steady improvement during the year, and especially over the last month. “We struggled offensively and we had some miscues on defense. They were a little quicker than us. They seemed to always be there. They beat us to loose balls. They played well. They shot the ball well, and we had to spread our zone out.
“We had a game plan on how we wanted to get to their shooters,” added Hower. “But we weren’t getting to them. We’ll have a little more depth in the next few years.”
In desperate need of a second-half spark, the Beavers never located one. Lourdes Regional outscored Lebanon Catholic 11-3 over the first six minutes of the third period to open a 35-20 lead.
Despite two inside moves from senior Hayley Witmer early in the fourth quarter, the Beavers were never able to trim their deficit to single digits.
“We just don’t have the depth to do it,” said Hower of pressing and attacking defensively. “We pretty much only play five players. We can’t press. We can’t play full-court defense.
“We have a nice friendly rivalry with Lourdes,” Hower continued. “They always seem to get the best of us in the state tournament. Lourdes, Nativity, Marian Catholic, Mahanoy, all teams from the Schuylkill league always seem to get us.”
The Red Raiders made a total of six three-point field goals. The Beavers certainly didn’t help their cause with three-for-eight free throwing.
“I thought we gave it a good effort,” said Hower. “We struggled offensively. But we got better from Day One. We’ve got a lot of players coming back, and that’s a good thing.”
After Lebanon Catholic had enjoyed a modest 4-2 lead early, Lourdes Regional notched eight unanswered points. But the Beavers answered with an 8-2 run that included buckets from Neesha Pierre, Monica Pastal, Mariah Sholly and Witmer, whose inside move eight seconds into the second quarter tied the score at 12.
“One of the areas I’m really happy with is their understanding of the game,” said Hower of her players. “They really improved offensively, and that takes a lot of time. Mariah is key. She definitely improved. She struggled a little bit today and got frustrated. It’s always important for her to get off to a good start.”
Lourdes Regional (45)
Lebanon Catholic 2014-15 Results
@Lancaster County Christian
|5:30 PM||W 62-23|
|6:00 PM||W 54-26|
|7:30 PM||L 37-57|
|7:30 PM||L 33-50|
|7:30 PM||L 36-72|
|7:30 PM||W 53-43|
|6:00 PM||W 52-22|
|7:30 PM||L 55-80|
|7:30 PM||L 45-53|
|6:00 PM||W 45-42|
|7:30 PM||W 51-23|
West Shore Christian
|6:00 PM||W 54-16|
|7:30 PM||W 54-41|
|7:30 PM||W 52-38|
|7:30 PM||L 32-51|
|7:30 PM||W 38-36|
|7:30 PM||L 43-60|
|7:30 PM||W 39-38|
|7:30 PM||L 31-66|
|7:30 PM||W 47-38|
|7:30 PM||W 36-31|
|7:30 PM||W 75-50|
|7:00 PM||L 46-67|
|11:00 AM||W 50-13|
|7:30 PM||W 53-45|
Christian School of York
|4:30 PM||W 40-20|
|12:00 PM||L 29-45|