The scouting report identified a specific weakness, and that weakness played directly into one of Lebanon’s glaring strengths. What that particular dynamic produced was one of the Cedars’ most complete and dominating wins to date.
In Thursday night’s opening round of its own holiday tournament, the Lebanon girls’ basketball team used some suffocating full-court defense to stifle Twin Valley 55-32. In opening a 34-11 halftime margin, the Cedars took the Raiders totally out of their offense, got out on the break and then pumped the ball inside to their emerging post presence.
Not only did the triumph even Lebanon’s overall record at 4-4, it moved it into Friday night’s 7:30 p.m. tournament championship match-up with Elco, which dismissed Lebanon Catholic 55-36. For Twin Valley, it was its eight straight loss to open the season.
“That’s how we want to play,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “At the same time, that’s a thing we thought we could take advantage of. I thought we could force them (the Raiders) into turnovers. My college coach at Rider taught me the best way to defend the post is to put pressure on the ball. They’d (his players) do that 32 minutes a game if I let them.
“The key thing was creating points off our pressure,” Brewer continued. “And holding number 33 below her average. That’s kind of what we did. At halftime, I told the girls we were going to pressure in the half-court, but we’re also going to work on our zone. It’s obviously a weakness of our’s, but I don’t mind being a man-to-man team.”
With the Cedars’ trio of guards Lauren Chambers, Brittany Uhrich and Shaela Shellehamer wreaking havoc all over the court, Lebanon High never trailed. The Cedars outscored Twin Valley 12-1 over the final 4:20 of the opening session.
“The maturity is growing, in the form of patience, in the form of shot selection, in the form of decision making,” said Brewer. “That’s fun to watch them (his players) pick it up. And also them buying into what we preach to them. We’re going to get even better if we post up and get the ball inside.
“From our first three days of practice, I knew we were going to have fun this year because of the girls’ attitude,” added Brewer. “They want to play. They want to press.”
Before taking off the press at the break, it was more of the same for the Cedars in the second period. During the 6:41 prior to halftime, Lebanon High outscored the Raiders 15-4 to up their lead to 23 points.
After sophomore Maddy Rakow notched seven straight Cedar points, Brittany Uhrich placed an exclamation point on the perfect first half with a buzzer-beating lay-in.
“I think we did push all the right buttons tonight, especially when we were able to use our full-court press,” said Brewer. “I wanted to use our zone pressure and our run-and-jump press.
“The thing about using the inside game, it opens up the outside game,” Brewer continued. “I think it’s just confidence. We have three or four girls on the court who can beat their defender off the dribble. At the beginning of the year, we were driving and kicking it out. Now we’re dropping it off to the ‘bigs’. And the girls, especially Chambers, are getting to know when to push, and when to back it out.”
The Cedars’ version of the twin towers – Haitos and Rakow – paced them with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Meanwhile Chamber struck for ten points, and Shellehamer stroked a pair of treys.
“You’re right. That’s huge,” said Brewer of being led in scoring by a couple of post players. “That probably hasn’t happened for us in three years. To get Haitos and Maddy for 23 points, are you kidding me? That definitely makes us contenders in the section.
“I think we’re sleepers (in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League),” Brewer added. “We’re going to sneak up on teams who aren’t prepared. Rakow doesn’t have to get ten or twelve (points) per game. If she can be a presence, it’ll help.”
Lebanon High opened the second half on an 8-5 burst, and assumed a 42-16 bulge on the strength of a drive to the hole by Chambers, with 4:38 of the third quarter remaining.
“They’re someone who we play in the summer league,” said Brewer of the impending championship duel with the Raiders of Elco. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I told the girls, ‘You’re going to play a team who plays a similar type of defense.'”