BY JEFF FALK
ASSUMPTION HILL – Patti Hower is a fierce competitor. She loves to win. Over 600 victories, 16 District Three titles and two state championships are testaments to that.
Perhaps the only thing Hower enjoys more is seeing girls grow, watching them mature and helping them reach their full potential.
During Friday’s senior night activities, Hower’s young Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball squad continued to evolve, as it outlasted pesky Pequea Valley 36-31. After staving off a couple of Brave runs, the Beavers benefited from a critical Pequea Valley technical foul with 27 seconds remaining to cinch the win.
The outcome was significant in that it clinched a playoff berth for a Beaver squad that had missed the postseason last year for the first time in Hower’s 37 years at the helm. Lebanon Catholic is now 13-8 overall and 8-7 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, while Pequea Valley, which had suffered a 54-41 setback to LCS back on Jan. 6, dropped to 8-13 on the year and 5-10 in the section.
Lebanon Catholic, the third rated team in the latest District Three Class A power rankings, has qualified for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs as the runner-up from Section Four and will take on the Section One champion in the opening round of the circuit’s tournament.
“I definitely enjoy watching them mature and get better,” said Hower of her charges. “I’ve done more coaching this year, more teaching. It’s fun to see them improve. (Freshman point guard, Sholly) Mariah and I are starting to get on the same page. It’s important for a coach and the point guard to be on the same page. It’s getting to the point where I’m thinking of a play, and she yells it out. But winning is fun.
“We’re learning,” continued Hower. “Sometimes we make poor decisions, so we’re still a work in progress. We’re still learning about the game of basketball. Then they (her players) make good decisions. But we’re starting to understand the game.”
Lebanon Catholic led for the majority of the evening. But the Braves sliced the Beaver lead to 29-28, when the key sequence of the contest unfolded, with 27 ticks to go.
Off a scrum that ensued from a missed free throw, a Lebanon Catholic player emerged with the loose ball and a Brave player was whistled for a technical foul. Lebanon Catholic’s Hayley Witmer and Celine Mars connected on three of the four resulting foul shots to put the Beavers up 32-28.
Neesha Pierre and Witmer sank four subsequent free throws over the game’s next 18 seconds to push the Catholic advantage to 36-28.
“I thought it definitely sealed the game,” said Hower. “It gave us more fouls shots and the ball. It (the lead) was one, and then we get the ball. It was a critical moment. It’s a shame because it was a close game. They (the Braves) were competitive.
“Senior night. A win. We clinched a playoff spot,” continued Hower. “Last year we were packing away the uniforms at this time. It’s an emotional win because the kids wanted to win it for (seniors) Monica and Hayley (Witmer). We’re going to the Lancaster-Lebanon playoffs. We’re (Lebanon Catholic and Pequea Valley) two evenly-matched teams. I thought Neesha did a nice job on (Alyssa) Hershey. I thought our team helped well (defensively) and we came up with some steals.”
Lebanon Catholic appeared to be in pretty good shape when Witmer nailed a couple of charity tosses in the middle of the fourth quarter to give her side a 29-22 advantage. But the Beavers’ offense dried up over the next 4:14 and Pequea Valley climbed to within one of their lead.
“We missed some lay-ups inside, we had a couple of shots rim in and out. But I thought bad decisions were the biggest things,” said Hower. “I thought our composure was excellent. We work on it at practice because we have some kids who are fiery. I have a fiery point guard (Sholly) who kept her emotions under control.
“They’re (her players) young,” Hower added. “They didn’t have a lot of success on the lower levels, but now they know how to win. They like to win and they know what to do in end-of-game situations. I want Cedar Crest (in the upcoming league playoffs). I think that would be fun, for our kids, for our fans and for their kids. Every one of their kids has come to my (summer) camp.”
The Beavers experienced difficulties protecting an eight-point halftime margin, as Pequea Valley notched ten of the first 11 points in the second half to go up 22-21. But with Pastal knocking down a jumper, Sholly scoring off the bounce and Pierre registering a couple of foul shots, the Beavers scored the last six points of the third period.
“Yeah, we might be overachieving a little bit,” said Hower. “But in my mind, I thought we could do this. We’ve beaten every team we should’ve beaten. Our section is really down.
“I’m very happy,” Hower added. “From where we were last year, we’re making a turnaround. We were just trying to keep the program going last year.”
Lebanon Catholic’s starting five went the entire way, and each member of it scored between six and eight points. On 14-of-21 free throwing, the Beavers outscored the Braves by nine points at the line.
“I only play five all the time,” said Hower. “It takes away our press. We normally like to push the ball. But it’s a fine line. It’s all experience. I’m just really happy with the way things are going.
“Monica hit a couple of key shots for us from the wing,” added Hower. “Monica missed some shots, but she didn’t stop shooting. They were within her range.”
Lebanon Catholic failed to score over the game’s first 5:51. But a Pastal jumper got the Beavers off and winging on a 13-2 burst that spilled over into the second session and concluded with a Sholly trey that put Catholic up seven.
The Beavers also tallied the final five points of the first half – Mars converted a nifty reverse lay-up and a foul shot, and Pierre turned a steal into a lay-in – to carry a 20-12 margin to the locker room.
“We missed our first seven shots and it was 4-0 forever,” said Hower. “But we played great defense. In the first half we might have been a little emotional with the senior-night thing. Sometimes I don’t like having that big of lead at halftime.”
Pequea Valley (31)
Lebanon Catholic 2014-15 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|
|6:00 PM||W 45-42|
|7:30 PM||W 51-23|
West Shore Christian
|6:00 PM||W 54-16|
|7:30 PM||W 54-41|
|7:30 PM||W 52-38|
|7:30 PM||L 32-51|
|7:30 PM||W 38-36|
|7:30 PM||L 43-60|
|7:30 PM||W 39-38|
|7:30 PM||L 31-66|
|7:30 PM||W 47-38|
|7:30 PM||W 36-31|
Class A Rankings
A School W L T Rating
1 Harrisburg Christian School 17- 2- 0 0.572473
2 Halifax Area 13- 6- 0 0.522187
3 Lebanon Catholic School 12- 8- 0 0.520033
4 Christian School Of York 13- 4- 0 0.501483
5 Lititz Christian School 11- 6- 0 0.419895
6 Dayspring Christian Academy 12- 6- 0 0.418603
7 Berks Christian 8- 4- 0 0.417103
8 Harrisburg Academy 11- 7- 0 0.381033
9 Mount Calvary Christian School 9- 7- 0 0.36770
10 Greenwood 5- 13- 0 0.353442
11 Lancaster Country Day School 6- 12- 0 0.314326
12 Conestoga Christian School 6- 9- 0 0.2814
13 Antietam 4- 14- 0 0.265165
14 Newport 3- 15- 0 0.259656
15 West Shore Christian Academy 4- 13- 0 0.241185
16 Millersburg Area 3- 16- 0 0.230110
17 Veritas Academy 3- 13- 0 0.211432
18 New Covenant Christian School 2- 9- 0 0.209406
19 High Point Baptist Academy 5- 11- 0 0.205223
20 Hershey Christian 0- 12- 0 0.198745
21 Lancaster County Christian 1- 16- 0 0.182053