BY JEFF FALK
What is unclear is whether or not the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball team knows how good it can be. Shoot, the Beavers may not even realize how good they are right now.
In winning the Lebanon High Holiday Tournament on Thursday evening, Lebanon Catholic showed signs of brilliance, nonchantly. In the championship game of the event, the Beavers dissected Elco 57-44 in a contest that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate.
The Beavers led by as many as 27 points before sitting their starters with about three minutes to go.
In claiming the championship for the first time in a number of years, Lebanon Catholic improved to 7-1 on the season. The loss dropped the Raiders to 3-5.
“All of it is relevant to who is out there,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower. “I have had better teams, but I knew there were some pretty good teams we were going to run into. But relevant to what’s out there, we can compete with them. And I hope they (her players) feel that way.
“We haven’t talked about how good we can be,” Hower continued. “If we win our three games next week, we’d be 10-1. That’s pretty good. We have an opportunity and we want to take advantage of it. But we’ve got to get better.”
For all intents and purposes, Thursday night’s game was won in the second quarter, and over in the third. The Beavers cranked up their defensive intensity and shooting percentage and Elco simply had no answers.
With senior point Stevie Fortna converting an old-fashioned three-point play and senior guard Kate Pastal drilling a modern three-pointer, Lebanon Catholic registered the final six points of the opening period to open up a 15-7 margin. Then in the second stanza, a modest 6-0 run generated by Pastal, Abby Shay and Erika Jackson pushed the Catholic advantage to 21-10.
“But we were taking good shots,” said Hower. “Shots in our range. I think they (her players) realized that if we take good shots, we’re going to make them.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” Hower added. “We executed and made some shots. And we played really good defense.”
Shay, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, tallied 14 Catholic points, while Pastal joined her on the all-tournament team by notching 14 of her own. Fortna, who compiled a game-high 17 points, was left off the all-tournament team.
Cheyenne Hassler drained four three-pointers and posted 16 points for the Radiers and was also named to the all-tournament quintet.
“Abby had a great tournament,” said Hower. “She controlled the boards both nights, and she scored both nights. We have a great inside-outside game.
“You could see she’s (Shay) capable,” Hower added. “She has really tried to improve on the things she needed to improve on. She’s much more under control. Going from a sophomore to a junior is like going from a junior to a senior.”
With Fortna ending the burst with a three-pointer, Lebanon Catholic outscored Elco 16-6 over the final 2:34 of the first half to take a 37-18 bulge to the break. And if that wasn’t enough, the Beavers recorded the first eight points of the third period to push their lead to 27 points.
“It’s a good springboard,” said Hower of the title. “It’s a confidence-builder. We played some tough teams and now when we go back into our league we believe we can compete with anyone.
“We need to improve on every aspect,” Hower continued. “There is no glaring weakness. But you want to get better at everything. We don’t do everything well all the time. You can always get better. You have to get better.”
With their starters on the bench, the Beaver reserves relinquished a huge chunk of LC’s once-comfortable advantage. To the Raiders’ credit, they never stop battling, and Hower was forced to call a timeout with 1:12 remaining and her team’s lead down to ten points.
“We talked about it,” said Hower of the idea of re-inserting her starters. “Stevie said to me, ‘Are you really going to put us back in?'”