BY JEFF FALK
DILLSBURG – It may be that the Lebanon girls’ basketball team isn’t performing as well as it did earlier in the season. Or it might be that the Cedars are encountering more difficult resistance.
But the bottom line is that the results the Cedars are now getting just aren’t the same as they were during the regular season
On Monday night at Northern York High School, Lebanon High lost for the fourth time in its last four playoff outings, falling to Red Lion 53-43, in a consolation game in the District Three Class AAAA postseason. The Cedars fell behind at the outset, never led and trailed by varying amounts throughout.
The outcome means the Cedars are down to their last ‘mulligan’. Sixth-seeded Lebanon, now 20-7 overall, will play Hempfield for the Class AAAA’s seventh and final berth in the upcoming PIAA tournament, on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
Red Lion, the now 16-9 tenth-seed, earned a state spot with last night’s victory.
“I think we’ve made some mental mistakes, unforced turnovers, over the last three or four games that we didn’t make during the regular season,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “It’s a long season. We have a lot of girls out there with a lot of miles on their wheels. And at this point of the season, every team is good. I think we deserve a state berth. I think we’re as good as one of the 32 teams (in the state tournament). We’ve just got to step up and prove it.”
On this particular evening, the Cedars were at their best when things seemed most bleak. That was midway through the third quarter, after Red Lion had used a 16-4 spurt to open its biggest lead of the contest, 35-19.
But Lebanon High responded by shutting out the York County representative over the next 6:31, as it pulled to within 35-30, on a Brittany Ulrich old-fashioned three-point play, 2:17 into the final stanza. Also a part of the Cedars’ 11 unanswered points were five from Shaela Shellehamer and a conventional three-point play by Lauren Chambers.
The Cedars would trim Red Lion’s lead to five on two later occasions – 38-33 on Chambers’ banked trey and 40-35 on a couple of charity tosses from Ulrich.
“It’s a tough match-up for us,” said Brewer. “For as much as we want to get the ball in the paint, when you have 5-7 and 5-8 girls guarding 5-3 and 5-4 guards, it’s not easy getting the ball into the post. Brittany and Lauren do it defensively by putting pressure on the ball. And I thought we did a much better job of offensive rebounding.
‘I didn’t feel any hangover (from Friday’s quarterfinal loss to Dover),” Brewer added. “Maybe I could attribute a little bit of that to the way we played. But we have every right to be the in the state playoffs. We just have to play Cedar basketball.”
After expending a lot of energy to catch up, the Cedars ran out of gas at the top of the mountain.
Lebanon went dry during a key 1:42 stretch during the middle of the fourth quarter, during which Red Lion was pushing its advantage to 44-35. Red Lion then drilled seven of eight free throw attempts over the final 1:15.
“They (Red Lion) average 50 points a game and we gave up 53, and we gave up ten points at the foul line over the last two minutes,” said Brewer. “I’d give us a ‘B-minus’ defensively. I think you have to give them (Red Lion) credit. They had us scouted well, and we had them scouted well. They have a lot of threats.
“I think there might have been a couple of instances where we got too high with our ‘big’ in the paint, and we struggled a little bit with girls getting behind us,” continued Brewer. “With boxing out and rebounding, I thought we did an excellent job. Overall defensively, I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The Cedars did get off to a slow start. They manged only two points over the contest’s first 6:22, and trailed 9-2.
But Lebanon ended the opening stanza on the right foot, thanks to a Kiana Graves put back. And LHS opened the second quarter in a similar fashion, a three-pointer from Alicia Haitos that made it an 11-9 score.
Then 3:06 before the break, Ulrich nailed a trey that got Lebanon High to within 17-15.
“We looked sluggish,” said Brewer. “I don’t think some of their (his players”) heads were where they needed to be. When we got here, there was no on in the gym. I was yelling at the girls in warm-ups to get some life, and so where they (Red Lion). It’s a Monday, and no one likes Mondays. I thought we had a great practice yesterday. And we didn’t start the second half bad.
“We out-rebounded them, but we had some turnovers again,” Brewer added. “We had little turnovers. They (his players) still have a chance to win something, so they’re staying positive.”
Ulrich paced Lebanon with 11 points, while Chambers counted ten. Courtney Dimof and Morgan Kuehme combined for 39 of Red Lion’s total.
For the game, Red Lion made good on 11 of its 12 foul shots.
“I thought we played 28 minutes pretty darn good,” said Brewer. “We got off to a slow start. And there were times when we lost some of the best shooters we’re gong to see all year.”