BY JEFF FALK
ASSUMPTION HILL – These days, Jamie Walborn derives no extra satisfaction from returning to her alma mater and beating the team that is her program’s rival.
Walborn is more concerned with her team going on the road, earning tough wins in hostile environments and getting better. Besides, Walborn isn’t all that far removed from experiencing the same difficulties Lebanon Catholic is currently working through.
On Wednesday night, Walborn, a former Beaver star, enjoyed another triumphant return to Lebanon Catholic School, as her Annville-Cleona girls’ basketball team nudged LC 44-36 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four contest. After they had trouble causing separation for the better part of three quarters, the Little Dutchmen held Lebanon Catholic without a point for a key five-minute-plus stretch in the middle of the final period to win it.
With the win, Annville-Cleona, itself a few seasons removed from not being able to field a JV team because of a lack of players, improved to 7-4 on the year and 3-3 in the section. The Beavers, who dressed six players, are now 4-7 overall and 1-5 in the league.
“No, I don’t get anything extra out of it,” said Walborn. “It’s just like any other game. I don’t look at it like ‘I used to go here and now I want to come here and win.’ I think the first year I was hyped up about it, but this is my fourth season. We just want to come here and win the game.
“No, I’m not surprised with how they’re (the Beavers) doing,” Walborn continued. “They have the minimum players, but what they do, they do well. You know coming into the game that Helene (Reist) and (Sammi) Fortna are their two three-point shooters and their two main ball handlers.”
“I thought it was our best overall team effort, because everyone contributed,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower. “It’s Annville-Cleona. It’s a big thing. We have a crowd here and I think they (her players) feed off the crowd.
“They’ve (the Little Dutchmen) got a nice overall team,” Hower added. “(Alex) Siebecker is tough. Now they’ve got (Kayla) Parks back. They’re better, but they did pretty good without Parks.”
After Annville-Cleona had enjoyed modest leads most of the way, a three-pointer from Fortna 40 seconds into the final stanza brought the Beavers to within 36-31. But the Little Dutchmen responded with a Meredith Bachman jumper and a Siebecker baseline move to push the advantage back to nine, at 40-31.
Annville-Cleona then proceeded to nail four of its next six free throw attempts.
“We didn’t play well, but in spurts we did,” said Walborn. “We had kids step up. I thought Alex did a nice job defensively on Helene Reist. But we didn’t play well the entire game.
“It was a good win,” added Walborn, “a big win for us.”
“They did step up,” said Hower of her troops. “Sam really struggled on Monday night, but she had a short memory. She came back tonight and didn’t hesitate with her shot. And that makes everybody else better. Siebecker played really good defense on Helene. But what I liked about our kids was that they had good body language.
“I was really happy with our defensive effort,” Hower continued. “I thought we had them off balance.”
Lebanon Catholic’s last lead of the evening came at 28-27, with 3:04 left in the third quarter, on a Monica Pastal coast-to-coast drive. The Little Dutchmen tallied the final six points of the period, courtesy of a short jumper from Parks, a Taylor Winters bucket and then a runner by Parks that beat the horn.
“I don’t know how we would’ve done without Kayla,” said Walborn, of her senior point guard’s second game back after missing five with a sprained ankle. “That third-quarter buzzer-beater was huge.
“I was nervous when she got hurt earlier, but it wasn’t her ankle, it was her knee,” Walborn added. “I thought that (Parks’ shot at the end of the third) was what we needed momentum-wise. We were kind of going through the motions. I think that shot gave us some momentum.”
“Yeah, that hurt,” said Hower. “She’s (Parks) their point guard. She’s their steadying influence. Any team, when they get their point guard back, it’s important.
“We made some big shots,” continued Hower. “But at the end of the third quarter, that was a five-point swing.”
For the game, Parks finished with 15 points, second only to Siebecker’s high of 17. Reist netted 11 points for Lebanon Catholic, while Fortna pumped in ten.
“They played well,” said Walborn of the Beavers. “Helene and Fortna hit some big shots. They do a nice job of running off screens, and we didn’t do a very good job of defending it.”
“As a coach, you’ve got to adjust to your personnel,” said Hower. “The last two years we haven’t been a pressing team because of depth and because we didn’t have great foot speed. You’ve got to adjust.”
With four from Siebecker and a two from Parks, Annville-Cleona notched the final six points of the first half to take a 20-15 margin to intermission. Two minutes earlier, a trey by Reist had pulled Lebanon Catholic to within 15-14 of A-C, and capped a 9-2 Beaver burst.
Early on the score was knotted at four, before the Little Dutchmen forged a 10-2 Siebecker-led run to take a 14-6 lead.
“Right now, coming into the second half of the season, we’re OK where we’re at,” said Walborn. “Kayla’s injury kind of held us back, but it allowed other kids to get some playing time. And we had kids step up. We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re OK.”
“Academically, we’re in great shape. And discipline-wise, I’m not worried,” said Hower, whose club has made it through 11 games with six players without the threat of forfeit. “Injuries is a concern, but you can’t control that. We haven’t had to face that. So far, we’ve made it through with six players. But when we have practice, it’s more of a mental practice.”