BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS BY LORI MESSERSMITH
LEBANON – Mostly through the efforts of the coaching staffs – and despite the disparity in the size of schools – the Lebanon High and Lebanon Catholic girls’ programs have fostered this nice little inner-city basketball rivalry over the past decade. It would seem that not only is the rivalry alive and healthy, but that its future is bright as well.
On Saturday night, in the opening round of Lebanon’s Athletic Booster Club Holiday Tournament, the Cedars and Beavers renewed – well, hostilities? – in a hard-fought, well-played, hotly-contested affair that ultimately fell Lebanon High’s way, 53-45. While certain seniors certainly stamped their marks on the contest, freshmen accounted for 56 of the 98 points scored.
Lebanon gained control of the result late in the first half and refused to relinquish control of it. Yet part of the reason that the Cedars couldn’t put Lebanon Catholic away was because the Beavers simply wouldn’t go away.
After starting the season 1-2, the win was Lebanon’s fifth in its last six outings. The 6-3 Cedars will meet Manheim Township, which defeated Penn Manor 54-24 in the other opening-round tilt, on Monday at 7:30 p.m. for the championship of the holiday tournament.
While not quite as measurable, Lebanon Catholic’s improvement since the start of the season has been just as profound as Lebanon’s. Now 4-5 overall, the Beavers will take on Penn Manor, at 6 p.m. on Monday in the consolation game of the event.
“It’s neat for Lebanon County,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer of a rivalry that continues to blossom. “I think you’re going to see good basketball in the future. The young kids are right there. (Cedar freshman, Alexis) Hill was all over the place, with rebounds, loose balls. But right now, young is not an excuse for turning the ball over 18 or 19 times.
“I’m happy with the way we’re playing, because we’re getting better,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower. “We took a couple of steps forward and one step back.
“It’s great to play Lebanon,” added Hower. “We lost, but it was a great experience.”
After Hill’s energy helped the Cedars to a quick start, the two sides fell into a pattern of Lebanon extending the lead to double digits, and the Beavers closing to within a couple of possessions. But make no mistakes about the fact that Lebanon’s 5-9 freshman forward set the tone for the remaining 25 minutes of action.
With a variety of athletic moves in the paint, Hill tallied ten early points, as the Cedars raced out to a 14-6 first-quarter advantage. Lebanon Catholic countered with a Mariah Sholly three-pointer, a Celine Mars bucket and a couple of Hayley Witmer charity tosses to open the second stanza, and pull to within 14-13, but the Beavers would never get over the proverbial ‘hump’.
“I’ve got to attribute some of that to the two senior captains (Brittany Ulrich, Alicia Haitos),” said Brewer of the Cedars’ supported maturation. “Hill has matured quickly and learned the speed of the game. I think we’ve grown up pretty quickly. But I want them to hurry up.”
“It was almost like she wasn’t phased by anything,” said Hower of Hill. “It doesn’t seem like she cares what the score is. I like the way she plays.”
Lebanon High enjoyed a 29-19 halftime lead, thanks mostly to a 13-4 run through the middle of the second quarter. Ulrich collected five of those Cedar points, Haitos contributed four, while Hill had a stick back and sophomore Maddy Hartman started it with a drive to the hole.
“I didn’t need to get steals,” said Brewer of his club’s man-to-man defense. “I wanted to pressure them (the Beavers) and deny the ball. I thought when we made them run their offense we did pretty good. When we had trouble was when they put their heads down and went to the rim.
“I told the girls in the locker room, ‘It’s a great win’,” Brewer added. ” ‘A win is a win. But think about it tonight: Were you proud of the way you played?'”
“They (the Cedars) had some people shoot the ball really well tonight,” said Hower. “I thought (Molly) Foster and Hartman shot well. We knew Brittany (Ulrich) was going to. We knew Haitos was going to.
“I thought our zone wasn’t bad,” continued Hower. “But they hit some outside shots. I think our zone is progressing. But Lebanon had weapons to break it.”
Hill pumped in a game-high 19 points to go with her 18 boards, while the steady Ulrich struck for 16 LHS points. On six-for-six free throwing, Mars went for 18 Beaver points, and Sholly and fellow ninth-grader Neesha Pierre tallied ten and nine points, respectively.
Lebanon outscored Lebanon Catholic 15-3 from three-point land.
“I think we continue to improve,” said Brewer. “But we can’t put a full game together. We’re playing some good competition, but we’re getting better for sure. We could very easily be 8-1 instead of 6-3. We have to be better. I know we are. And our bench is getting deeper.”
“We didn’t substitute,” said Hower. “I’m already playing three freshmen. The others aren’t quite ready for this yet. I’m going with my best players for as long as I can.
“Neesha can bring it up,” Hower continued. “But she’s not one to say, ‘Let’s set the offense.’ Celine played outstanding. She’s starting to figure it out.”
Lebanon’s biggest lead of the night came at 41-27, courtesy of an Ulrich three-pointer, 3:43 into the second half. But when Sholly drove to the basket with 55 seconds left in the third stanza, Catholic was back to within 43-36.
“We just couldn’t put them away,” said Brewer of the Beavers. “It was either turnovers or dribble-drive that kept them in the game. Just because you’re playing against a zone, you’ve got to find ways to get inside.”
“We weren’t giving up lay-ups,” said Hower of her team’s stamina. “I’m happy with our conditioning. They (her five starters) almost play every minute of every game.”
With a deliberate delay game, the Cedars turned the fourth quarter into ball handling and free-throw shooting contests.
Yet despite that fact, Lebanon Catholic trimmed its deficit to, first 49-43 on a drive from Pierre, and then 51-45 on a drive by Witmer, during the last two minutes of action. The Beavers had a chance to cut into it further, but Pierre missed on an attempted lay-in of a steal.
“She’s a nice point guard,” said Hower of Ulrich. “Of all my best players, I thought Neesha was best to play her. On any team, the point guard is the key. I’ve always felt that way. They make everyone else go. Brittany can score and she can find some people.”
Lebanon Catholic (45)
3-point goals — LC: Sholly, L: Haitos, Hartman, Foster, Ulrich 2
Total fouls — Lebanon 16, Lebanon Catholic 13
Fouled out — None
2014-15 Lebanon Girls’ Basketball Results
|6:00 PM||W 46-43|
|7:30 PM||L 28-59|
|7:30 PM||L 28-31|
|6:00 PM||W 56-44|
|7:30 PM||W 40-30|
|7:30 PM||W 45-26|
|7:30 PM||W 50-35|
|7:30 PM||L 44-46|
|7:30 PM||W 53-45|
2014-15 Lebanon Catholic Girls’ Basketball Results
@Lancaster County Christian
|5:30 PM||W 62-23|
|6:00 PM||W 54-26|
|7:30 PM||L 37-57|
|7:30 PM||L 33-50|
|7:30 PM||L 36-72|
|7:30 PM||W 53-43|
|6:00 PM||W 52-22|
|7:30 PM||L 55-80|
|7:30 PM||L 45-53|