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LEBANON – After enduring struggles and paying its dues, the Lebanon girls’ basketball prgoram has been pointing towards this season. That was before anyone had even heard of the Coronavirus.

But the pandemic was not going to affect the Cedars’ goals or aspirations. Sure it’s grateful for each game and practice together, but Lebanon wants more.

In many ways, the Cedars see 2021 as a new year, their year.

“The existence of COVID-19 doesn’t change our goals,” said Lebanon head coach Jaime Walborn. “We think we can finish at the top of our section. We’ve talked about that. These are seniors and juniors, and they’ve been playing together for awhile.

“Absolutely, there’s carry-over from last year,” Walborn added. “We’re developing these kids. Now they’re juniors and seniors. Now they’re a year older. It gave us some experience. It was another year of growing as a team.”

Before Governor Tom Wolf’s mandated three-week pause to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Cedars hadn’t missed a practice. Those 19 practices and two scrimmages will certainly help, as they work towards their goals.

“We feel fortunate,” said Walborn, who’s in her fifth season at the helm. “We had some kids miss, but we essentially got through what we needed to get through. I think we’re ready. They’re (her players) ready. We got a lot of practices in ahead of games. We’re ready to go.

“We have four seniors and a bunch of juniors, and (during the three-week shutdown) they did a great job of taking charge,” added Walborn. “In that time, we Zoomed as a team. But they did some things on their own. They did some activities on their own, like running outside.”

On the surface, Lebanon’s 2019-20 campaign may have felt like its previous two. But despite going 6-17 overall, the Cedars saw improvements and more learning experiences realized.

“What sticks in my mind about last year was that we had some really good wins,” said Walborn. “That record wasn’t what we wanted, but we had moments that stuck out. Last year there were some closes where we didn’t come out ahead in the end. The two years prior we didn’t have many close games.”

With seniors Giahny Correa, Zaelys DeArce, Sophia Blouch and ShanAnn Simmons, Lebanon boasts plenty of practical experience at the top of its roster. Juniors Maddy Bishop and Dorthie Zechman will also contribute to the Cedars’ cause in a variety of ways.

“I think one of our strengths for sure is camaraderie,” said Walborn. “They’re together. This core group has kind of stuck it out and stayed together. They’re close on the court and off the court. This is a great group.”

With a grand total of 11 players on its roster, Lebanon is not deep. But the development of sophomores Liyna Saadini, Aaliyah Ferrer, Mackenna Robb and Rose Gonzalez, as well as freshman Dora Lopez, will be crucial to the Cedars’ fortunes, this year and in seasons to come.

“The numbers are a concern, just because we don’t have a huge roster,” said Walborn. “You never know what’s going to happen with COVID-19. Playing-wise, we need to be disruptive on defense. We have some quick guards who are able to shoot.

“Dorthie Zechman has been a huge presence for us in the post,” continued Walborn. “She’s worked on what she needed to work on. That’s going to be an adjustment for us, not relying so much on guard play.”

The Cedars will set sail on their journey on Friday, January 8 at Conestoga Valley. With 20-some contests, Lebanon is scheduled to play more games than any other Lebanon County squad this season.

“These juniors and seniors were seventh- and eighth-graders when I started,” said Walborn. “We’re looking forward to this year. We’ve been building. As a program, we’re going in the direction we want to be going.”

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