LITITZ – Over the years, the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball team has been in every kind of playoff game imaginable. Every shape. Every size.
But they were never in one like this before. And when faced with unfamiliar surroundings, the Beavers naturally became defensive.
On Thursday night at Warwick High School, during the inaugural Lancaster-Lebanon League play-in playoff game, Lebanon Catholic’s frantic, scrambling, disruptive man-to-man defense served it well during a 43-42 triumph over Cocalico. The Beavers’ defensive effort over the final 20 seconds of the contest was the difference, as they got the Eagles out of sync and limited them to one wild, off-balanced attempt.
Lebanon Catholic’s man-to-man also made Celine Mars’ free throws with 1:06 to go the decisive points.
With the win, the third-place finishers out of Section Three and the now 18-6 Beavers earned a special quarterfinal date with Section One champion and undefeated Cedar Crest, on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Falcon Cage. Cocalico, the third-place team out of Section Two, slipped to 14-10 overall.
“It seemed like three minutes,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower of those final seconds. “I thought we played excellent, aggressive defense. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and not getting beat off the dribble, and being aggressive and not getting beat back door.
“During their timeout with seven seconds left, Alexis (Hill) said: ‘Our defense ran some time off the clock,'” continued Hower. “It seemed like the ball was on the rim forever. We got a break there.”
“I was just telling my teammates to get the defense up,” said Hill, who had forced a key turnover during another defensive stop, with 51 seconds to go . “We D-ed it up good. We played good defense, got the rebound and we won it.”
Facing a four-point deficit entering the final quarter, Lebanon Catholic ripped off eight straight points, behind two driving lay-ins from Hill and four points by Neesha Pierre, to assume a 39-35 margin. Then after the Eagles responded, an athletic tap-in of a missed free throw by Hill gave the Beavers a 41-39 edge with 2:34 remaining.
“It’s better than not getting invited,” said Hower of the play-in format. “At least you can control your own destiny. There were years when it was Lancaster Catholic, Columbia and us, and we didn’t get in. The first- and second-place teams deserve byes and we deserved an opportunity. It was better than practice.
“I think that (not playing Cedar Crest) would’ve been the most disappointing part if we had lost,” Hower added. “We’re excited. We haven’t played them (the Falcons) since 2004. For us, we have nothing to lose. I’m just glad we can advance.”
“It’s my birthday, and I’m happy to get the win,” said Hill, who recorded the 1,000th point of her career early in the fourth. “I didn’t know about the thousandth point until I came back to the bench. It was just a good day.
“It was our first playoff game and we wanted to play Cedar Crest,” added Hill. “It’s good competition. They’re a good team. They’re on a streak, and we’re a good team too.”
Cocalico hit the ground running in the second half and opened the third period with a 9-2 burst that gave it a 33-26 edge. But thanks to a drive by Mars and a foul shot by Hill, the Beavers closed to within 35-31 of the lead by the end of the third quarter.
“Some game’s she’s unbelievable,” said Hower of Hill. “Some games have been a little bit harder. But she wanted this game. I’m really happy for her. It’s nice to get it (the 1000th point) out of the way.
“Her energy is contagious, and it affects her teammates,” continued Hower. “She’s a very good offensive player. But the thing I like about her is her defense. We haven’t had a player like that in a long time.”
Hill pumped in a game-high on ten field goals and two free throws, and Mars dropped in 11 points. The Beavers were outscored 18-0 from behind the arc, but yielded only seven two-pointers to the Eagles.
“I never really got this far before,” said Hill. “Winning our first playoff game is new to me. I didn’t know what to expect. I want to keep it going. They’re (the Beavers) used to his. We’re (she and teammate Jasmine Turner) new to this.”
Lebanon Catholic intensified its play in the second period.
Facing a 15-9 hole, Lebanon Catholic opened up the floor, got out on the break and embarked on a 13-4 burst that gave it a 22-19 lead. Hill tallied nine of those points, while Turner contributed a lay-in and Mars collected a lay-up.
“We started man (-to-man defense), and then went zone because Alexis got two fouls,” said Hower. “They (her players) prefer to play man. I don’t know if they (the Eagles) made a three when we went man.
“It was very hard fought,” added Hower. “They (the Eagles) were quicker in half court. They were were physical. I thought they played an excellent game.”
“I felt like we started out slow,” said Hill. “As a whole, we picked up and we got momentum flowing. We wanted this one.”
Both sides appeared a bit sluggish early, as Cocalico opened an 8-5, first-quarter lead.
“I am pleased with the way we played, except for the first quarter,” said Hower. “I told the girls, ‘We’re only down 8-5, and that’s as bad as we can play’. We felt that there were positives going into the second half, like ‘Yeah, we can do this.’
To purchase images in this article email email@example.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.
2016-17 Lebanon Catholic Girls’ Basketball Schedule
|7:00 PM||L 29-44|
|7:30 PM||W 56-33|
|7:30 PM||W 62-35|
Christian School of York
|6:00 PM||W 62-12|
|7:30 PM||W 45-42|
|7:30 PM||W 62-46|
|7:30 PM||W 53-39|
|6:00 PM||W 71-22|
|7:30 PM||L 41-42|
|6:00 PM||W 48-26|
High Point Baptist
|7:30 PM||L 31-44|
|7:30 PM||L 39-49|
PIAA District Three
Class A Power Rankings
|3||Harrisburg Christian School||19-||2-||0||0.635510||0.857567||0.364107|
|4||Lebanon Catholic School||16-||6-||0||0.628476||0.710145||0.528658|
|5||Christian School Of York||17-||4-||0||0.560460||0.721448||0.363695|
|7||Mount Calvary Christian School||12-||9-||0||0.457844||0.469136||0.444044|
|8||Dayspring Christian Academy||14-||6-||0||0.450209||0.589888||0.279491|
|9||Lancaster Country Day School||11-||10-||0||0.427503||0.421446||0.434905|
|10||Conestoga Christian School||11-||9-||0||0.367833||0.425258||0.297646|
|11||Lititz Christian School||11-||11-||0||0.365926||0.389151||0.337540|
|12||New Covenant Christian School||7-||8-||0||0.360254||0.344262||0.379799|
|14||Covenant Christian Academy||6-||13-||0||0.308153||0.217918||0.418440|
|15||West Shore Christian Academy||6-||15-||0||0.294791||0.198675||0.412265|
|18||High Point Baptist Academy||4-||12-||0||0.232303||0.171429||0.306704|
|19||Lancaster Mennonite School-Hershey Campus||1-||14-||0||0.207527||0.041096||0.410942|
|20||Lancaster County Christian||3-||13-||0||0.198775||0.126404||0.287229|
|22||LINVILLE HILL CHRISTIAN||0-||0-||0||0.000000||0.000000||0.000000|