ANNVILLE – Teams are rarely as good as they think they are. The Lebanon Catholic boys are better.
To this point of the season, the Beavers have performed at a level which apparently only they believed that they could. On Wednesday night, Catholic did some more strutting of its stuff during a 56-33 manhandling of rival Annville-Cleona.
Playing with heart, passion and desire, the Beavers owned just about every aspect of the game, and dominated it pretty much throughout. After establishing a double-digit advantage just before halftime, Lebanon Catholic put Annville-Cleona away early in the final period.
The win pushed Catholic to 10-2 overall, 5-2 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and kept it very much in the hunt for what would be a rare section title. Annville-Cleona, who lost emotional leader Casey Smith to a second-quarter knee injury, slipped to 4-9 on the campaign and 2-5 in the section.
“Yeah, I think we’re a little better than I thought we’d be,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Scott Clentimack. “We go to every game trying to win. I’m disappointed we’re not 11-1. I thought we had a chance to be pretty good. I wasn’t sure how good. I don’t know if we’re a lot better than I thought. I think we’ve exceeded our expectations a little bit.
“We should be 11-1,” continued Clentimack. “We should’ve beaten Lampeter-Strasburg. Yeah, I’m thrilled to death. How can you not be happy with that? And it’s not like we’re playing bad teams.”
“I was disappointed,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Justin Edwards. “I thought they (the Beavers) played harder than us. Coach Clentimack has them playing at a very high level. They brought it, shoved it in our faces and we didn’t respond.
“You can’t put a price on effort,” Edwards continued. “There have been games that we have been in that we played hard. Those hustle plays and we got all the 50-50 balls. Part of it (the loss) was a lack of effort, and they (the Beavers) had extreme effort.”
Up 11-4 early, the Beavers created even more separation for themselves in the second period. Two three-pointers from Anthony Pletz and one by Timmy Orr during the first four minutes of the stanza helped produce Lebanon Catholic’s 25-10 lead.
At 30-19, the Beavers went to the locker room with much of that advantage intact.
“We went on the road and got a victory, so we played pretty good,” said Clentimack. “It’s a difficult environment. This is our rival. But we just want to win. We put ourselves in a really good spot and we just have to move forward.
“This was a tough place to play,” Clentimack added. “I never won here before, even though it’s not been that many years. It was a big win.”
“Turnovers are a big problem,” said Edwards. “We throw the ball away a lot. If we fall behind, we can’t crawl back into it. We’re more of a grind-it-out team. When we get down, it’s hard to come back.”
Reformed-perimeter-player-turned-inside-banger Alex Frattaroli paced Lebanon Catholic with 15 points, Pletz collected 13 points and Orr accumulated a dozen. On the Little Dutchmen side, Paxson Hayes and freshman Derrick Sanders netted ten points apiece.
“With this group, it’s tough to focus on one guy,” said Clentimack. “I’ve got four guys who average 12 points a game. It was a great effort for everyone.
“This team has really good chemistry,” Clentimack added. “Our M.O. is we get stronger as the game goes on. I think that’s a credit to our off-season regiment.”
“Timmy deserves all the credit he gets,” said Edwards. “He’s paid his dues. There’s not a lot of guys who have his skill set. Anthony (Pletz) is a knock-down shooter. Frattaroli has improved. He’s effective around the basket. And (Jaylon) Colon worked hard in the off-season and he’s a good defender. It’s not just stop Timmy any more.
“I was surprised to see them (the Beavers) beat Lancaster Catholic, but I’m not surprised now,” added Edwards. “If they would get into foul trouble, that would change their demeanor itself. But five-on-five, they’re probably the best team in the section.”
The Little Dutchmen did make one run at Catholic, and it came near the end of the third quarter. Down 35-22, Annville-Cleona outscored the Beavers 7-1 over the final four minutes of the quarter to pull within 36-27 on a lay-in from Sanders.
But the Beavers held A-C scoreless for a three-minute stretch early in the final period. In that span, Orr netted six points and the Little Dutchmen were whistled for an intentional foul, as the lead re-expanded to 50-29.
“I always tell my teams, ‘if we’re not shooting the ball well, we’ve got to get stops’,” said Clentimack. “We got into a funk a couple of times offensively, but we played good defense, and that’s how we maintained our lead. You knew they (the Little Dutchmen) weren’t going to go away. That’s not their style. We just kept after them, kept after them.
“The goals are the same,” continued Clentimack. “Everything else (besides districts) is icing on the cake. If we get to the point where we’ve never won the section, then we’ll talk about it. Are we going to win the league? No.”
“We wanted to get it under ten for the fourth quarter,” said Edwards. “We did, and then they (the Beavers) came out got a steal, a lay-up and a foul, and it’s over.
“I think we’re a little behind where we want to be,” Edwards continued. “We had two winnable games over the holidays and didn’t get it done. I think we’re closer to a .500 team, but that’s not the way it’s fallen. I think if we can sneak into districts, we can make some noise.”
Lebanon Catholic did not surrender a Little Dutchmen three-point field goal in the contest, while connecting on five of its own.
“Here’s the thing, we take it one game at a time,” said Clentimack. “But when the regular season ends, we’ll take off three, four or five days, and we’ll go back to the first day of practice. We’ve done a good job over the years of taking it game-by-game, and then refocusing.
“I feel like this group is really focused,” Clentimack added. “They’re asking me what the school record for wins in a season is (18). I tell them to be confident, not cocky. This group does a pretty good job of keeping things in perspective.”
“Losing Casey (Smith) didn’t help,” said Edwards. “He’s the one who leads the communication. He’s the guy I text when there’s a change in school. Some of our guys looked like deer in headlights when he went down.
“Casey’s going to be a big part of it (A-C’s hopes for the rest of the season),” added Edwards. “When you lose your best shooter, it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to step up our defense even more. Our goal is to hold teams under 40 points. Turnovers and rebounding are really key for us. We’re not that terribly talented offensively.”