Quick factoid from the world of the weird and wonderful: the Lebanon girls’ basketball team is 0-for-10 in games this season when it has been outscored in the third quarter.
That is a trend that continued last night. But in reality, it was the first quarter which really won this game for the Cedars.
On Tuesday night, Lebanon High rode a dominating 19-4 start to a 52-33 win over Conestoga Valley. Oh, and by the way, the Cedars did outscore the Buckskins 10-9 in the eight-minute period that followed halftime.
The triumph was vital for a Lebanon club that pretty much must win out to even get a sniff of the District Three Class AAAA playoffs. Lebanon, which is currently 24th in a Class AAAA power rankings that sends 16 to ‘the dance’, is now 8-10 on the year and 5-7 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
The Buckskins, on the other hand, plummeted to 4-14 overall and 1-11 in the section. Back on December 21st in Leoloa, Lebanon had handed Conestoga Valley a 56-39 setback.
“I’ll tell you what our goal was after we got that early lead,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “We’re 0-for-ten when we lose the third quarter. That was on my mind at the beginning. At halftime, I had the girls for about a minute and a half in the locker room, and I got them back out there in a lay-up line. I wanted to keep them going. And even tonight we were sluggish in the third quarter. But the streak is still alive.”
“I thought we rebounded well and we hustled all game,” said Cedar junior guard Lauren Chambers. “We picked up the intensity. And we won the third quarter. That’s been a problem all season. That quarter kills us.”
The Cedars punished Conestoga Valley early with pressure defense and hot shooting. In opening their 15-point first-quarter bulge, Chambers netted nine points and sophomore Brittany Ulrich contributed seven points.
And when Ulrich nailed a jumper to open the second period, Lebanon was sitting on a 21-4 cushion.
“In a game like this, to come out at home, that was the focus pre-game,” said Brewer. “To come out and not let them (the Buckskins) get any momentum. Every shot we took, the ball went in (inside), the ball came out and we shot in rhythm.
“There were stretches of us doing exactly what we want to do,” Brewer added. “Pressuring the ball, but also protecting it and treasuring it. We also had stretches where we weren’t intense. Thankfully, we started with intensity.”
“We came out and wanted it more,” said Chambers. “We were hustling for the ball. We got the ‘bigs’ involved, and when we do that we play well. That was important. We have to have the intensity first.
“I thought things went well,” Chambers continued. “In the first half, they went a lot better than the second half. Coach said yesterday at practice if we play together, we’ll win tomorrow. And we did.”
Shellehamer led Lebanon High in scoring, while Ulrich collected 13 points and Chambers registered 11. The Cedars won despite not connecting on a single free throw, but they did hold Conestoga Valley without a three-pointer, while nailing four of their own.
“If we win out, we’re 12-10 and I think the odds are in our favor for making districts,” said Brewer. “If we go 11-11, we’ll probably be the last team out. I told the girls, ‘we have to win out, but we can’t do it tonight.’ With this team, they’re fun to coach. They can get hot. Hopefully we’ll keep the momentum going.
“Looking at the beginning of the season, we’re behind those goals,” Brewer continued. “Seeing us play, we’re way back. We lost five games by a total of 12 points. The talent is there. The ability is there. But I still have to remind myself that there’s a lot of sophomores out there, there’s a lot of juniors out there. Looking back, we could’ve done a lot of good things out there.”
“To get anywhere, we need to keep winning,” said Chambers. “These last four games we’ve got to win. We still have a chance. We still have hope.”
The Cedars backed off the full-court pressure in the second quarter, but not the intensity. Protecting a 25-12 advantage, Lebanon High ripped off the final 11 points of the stanza to take a 24-point advantage to the break.
“There are two simple things,” said Brewer. “When we win, we play 32 minutes and utilize all of our abilities. We don’t rely on one part of the game or a skill. When we lose, we have four, five, six-minute spurts where we can’t score.”
“It’s had its ups and downs,” said Chambers of the Cedar campaign. “But I think we’re coming together as a family, and when we do that, we progress on the basketball floor. The games we’ve won we played together. We didn’t point the finger.”
Lebanon High held Conestoga Valley scoreless for a 3:20 stretch late in the third period, during which it extended its lead to 46-20, on a Haitos stickback.
“I think we have some great individuals who are a good team, learning to be a great team,” said Brewer. “When we take advantage of all of our players’ skills, we have the ability to be a very, very good team. I wouldn’t want to play us down the stretch, with the section on the line.”