BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Like numbers? Then you’ll love these: 24, 4 , 22, 31, 32, 20.
How do you feel about these? 67-43. 18-4. 71-19.
And here’s a sequence you might enjoy. 17, 18, 19, 20…
For the Lebanon Catholic girls, basketball is all about numbers.
On Thursday evening at Hershey’s Giant Center, all those digits added up to the Beavers’ 18th District Three Class A championship, as Lebanon Catholic dominated Halifax 67-43 in the tournament’s finale. Spearheaded by the trio of Allison Warren, Neesha Pierre and Celine Mars, a red-hot start and an unrelenting style of play, the Beavers not only placed their own personal marks on their record number of championships, they did it with room to spare.
With the win, the top-seeded Beavers improved to 18-4 all-time in district title tilts and 71-19 overall in the District Three tournament. Half of Lebanon Catholic’s district titles have been won at the Giant Center, and the Beavers have now won as many district championship as every other Lebanon County basketball program – boys’ and girls’ – combined.
As the District Three champions, Lebanon Catholic, now 20-6 overall, will open play in the PIAA Class A postseason on Saturday, March 5, against the third-place finisher out of District Four. Halifax, the number-two seed, dropped to 18-9 on the season.
“I get nervous about every one,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower. “And every one we win, I get happy for the kids. We’ve been here. I want it for the kids. I don’t think about numbers. I think about what it means to the kids.
“I don’t think we’ll appreciate that (where the 18 titles fits into Lebanon County sports history) until we retire,” added Hower, “and realize it’s pretty impressive. You’ve got to go out there and beat every opponent. Everyone’s going to give you their best game.”
To say that Lebanon Catholic secured the championship in the opening quarter would be a stretch. But no other period set the stage for the title more than the first.
Thanks to Mars, Pierre and Jayden Shellehamer, the Beavers netted the first three baskets of the contest. But Lebanon Catholic closed the period with eight straight points – four apiece from Warren and Pierre – and when Mars and Pierre opened the second stanza with back-to-back buckets, the Beavers found themselves with a 20-4 cushion.
“Playing last year helped,” said Hower of the 2014-15 crown. “They (her players) were focused. They followed the game plan. We watched tape on them (the Wildcats). I thought they (her players) played like they’re capable. We’ve had balance all year. Even though Mariah (Sholly) only had two points, she’s the key to the team. She runs the team.
“I’d say we’re peaking,” continued Hower. “At the Christmas tournament at Lebanon, I think they (her players) gained so much confidence with the wins over those quad-A teams (Lebanon and Manheim Township). They mentally got more confident.”
“We knew in our hearts that we can live up to their expectations,” said Warren, “and we did.”
The Beavers went on a similar run in the middle of the second quarter. This one was an 8-0 job that pushed a 14-point margin to 30-8. It was fueled by three Pierre scores from the paint and a Warren jumper.
“I thought we played real well,” said Hower. “We executed. We took what they gave us. All of our players are so unselfish. I was surprised they (the Wildcats) played man (-to-man defense), but I’m glad they did.
“We do a lot of drills,” Hower added. “Our game is transition. We like to put the ball on the floor.”
Warren pumped in 21 points that included a trio of three-pointers. Pierre struck for 18 points and dished out nine ‘dimes’, while Mars contributed 16 points. Sholly handed out eight assists.
“I would like to think I taught them something,” said Hower of her charges. “But they’ve been playing since the fourth grade. They probably picked something up along the way. We play a lot in the summer. But what a jump from last year to this year, as far as skills. And playing in the Lancaster-Lebanon League really, really helps us in the postseason.
“It’s (another two district championship) possible,” Hower continued. “We start four sophomores. But Allison Warren loves the game. She has a passion for it. She came to our school one year ago. She came and watched. But she’s done a great job of being a leader to our younger girls.”
Halifax closed the first half with a modest 7-2 spurt, and when the Wildcats pulled to within 40-28 in the middle of the third quarter, it brought Hower off her seat on the bench. But Warren drained back-to-back treys, then worked her way inside for a deuce, before Pierre went coast-to-coast for two more, and at 50-30, all was well with the Beavers.
“We watched our district final from last year,” said Hower. “They just see how much better they have gotten. The experience we got last year has really helped us. Neesha was athletic last year, but now she has skills. I thought Celine finished well. Celine has really improved her knowledge of the game.
“I haven’t said anything to our players about states,” continued Hower. “But I like our side of the bracket. I think we can compete. But there are some very good teams out west. If we play like we can play, we can advance.”
“In the locker room, we talked about keeping the lead,” said Warren. “We did, and added to it.”
Two free throws by Erin Callihan and a jumper from Warren extended Lebanon Catholic’s lead to 60-39. And when Warren canned another ‘three’ with 2:22 to go, it touched off a celebration on the Beaver bench that spilled over into the stands.
“I did change to a 2-3 zone,” smiled Hower. “I made one coaching move.
“No, I’m not going to be around for another 18 championships,” continued Hower. “But I’m not putting a number on it. As long as I enjoy going to practice everyday, I’m going to keep coaching.”
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|PIAA Class A Championships|
|6:00 PM||W 55-33|
|7:30 PM||L 42-45|
|7:30 PM||L 36-47|
|7:30 PM||W 58-42|
|7:30 PM||W 46-27|
|7:30 PM||L 32-74|
|7:30 PM||W 58-28|
|7:30 PM||W 51-45|
|7:30 PM||W 58-52|
|6:00 PM||W 68-21|
|7:30 PM||W 55-30|
|7:30 PM||W 64-52|
|7:30 PM||W 63-47|
|7:30 PM||W 60-48|
|7:30 PM||L 42-49|
|7:30 PM||W 49-22|
|7:30 PM||L 37-62|
|7:30 PM||W 70-37|
|7:30 PM||W 51-42|
|7:30 PM||W 64-54|
@West Shore Christian
|6:00 PM||W 64-28|
|7:00 PM||W 41-38|
|7:00 PM||L 21-40|
|7:00 PM||W 44-32|
Christian School of York
|6:00 PM||W 57-36|
|4:30 PM||W 67-43|
LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cedar Crest: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA)
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)