HERSHEY – Thirty-one seconds remained on a three-year struggle. Who would you call upon?
Not only was the choice appropriate and sentimental, it was also very practical.
Senior Timmy Orr, its one and only captain, sank the front end of a one-and-one free throw with four seconds remaining to give the Lebanon Catholic boys’ basketball team a 52-51 win over Greenwood, and the District Three Class A championship, Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center. With the score knotted at 51, and after running down the game clock out of a timeout with 31 seconds remaining, Orr went hard to his right from the top of the circle and was fouled on the floor.
By calmly sinking his first free throw, Orr gave Lebanon Catholic its fourth overall district championship and first since 2006. As the newly crowned district champs, the Beavers, now 18-7, will compete in the PIAA Class A postseason, beginning Friday, March 8, against the third-place finisher out of District 12.
Greenwood, which was making its fifth straight appearance in the district title game, slipped to 21-4 overall.
“We were going to hold for one,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Scott Clentimack of the final possession. “The play is called ‘Release’. I would prefer Timmy to have the ball in that situation. He took it strong enough to the hole and got fouled.
“After four years, he (Orr) finally understands what I want from him,” Clentimack added. “I want him to go to the basket, not pull up and take a ‘three’. He’s a senior. This is his team. He deserves it.”
“The plan was to have the ball in my hands,” said Orr. “And then with nine or ten seconds left, John (Groh) was going to give me a screen. I was supposed to get to the hole with my strong hand, and either score or get fouled.
“In practice, we shoot 40 or 50 foul shots each day,” added Orr. “I just tried to stay focused and forget about the crowd, which wasn’t easy. I just tried to make it seem like another day at practice. I focused enough, at least on the first one. It was a good feeling after I made the first one.”
Orr’s foul shot saved the Beavers from a monumental collapse. Lebanon Catholic led 48-37 on an Anthony Pletz trey 2:19 into the final period, but the Wildcats netted 14 of the next 17 points to tie the score at 51 with 37 seconds left.
Orr’s free throw represented Catholic’s only point in the final 3:32 of the game.
“It’s always special, but more so with this group,” said Clentimack, who is now four-for-four in his career in district championship games. “This took longer. It was a four-year journey. It’s a tribute to them as players and people.
“Those ( the other district titles) kind of happened pretty quickly,” continued Clentimack. “There wasn’t a transition. You can’t believe how hard it is, because we started talking about it three years ago. As people, I can’t put into words what makes them so special.”
“It’s a great feeling,” said Orr. “We worked our butts off for a couple of years to get here. We couldn’t take any time off, ever in practice. Our practices are so much harder than games, so it’s (games) easier, but not easy.
“In my freshman year, we were seventh in the state,” Orr continued. “My sophomore and junior years were definitely difficult. We were rebuilding and we were young. Last year I was the oldest player on the team. This has been our goal since two years ago.”
Protecting a one-point halftime edge, the Beavers recorded the first six points of the second half, on charity tosses from Orr, Alex Frattaroli, Anthony Thomas and a drive by Anthony Pletz, to open a 33-26 lead. And when Orr scored on a drive with 2:30 of the third quarter remaining, Lebanon Catholic had a 41-32 lead.
“That’s how we play,” said Clentimack. “Greenwood wanted to control the tempo. We wanted to score in the 60s and 70s. It’s not by design. We take what other teams give us. I thought we guarded well in spurts. It (the defense) could’ve been better.
“They (the Wildcats) run their stuff, run their stuff,” Clentimack added. “Maybe we were a little bit tired at the end. We’re not deep, but we usually wear teams out. I think we were a little too careful sometimes. But the last five years this (Giant Center) was been their own personal playground. They (the Wildcats) aren’t strangers to this place. That carries over.”
Orr poured in a team-high 20 points, while Thomas struck for 13 points and Frattaroli registered 12. The Beavers were victimized by eight three-point field goals from Greenwood.
“He’s the kind of kid that when he gets into a flow, he gets more confident,” said Clentimack of Thomas. “And it makes us a better team. Games where we’ve struggled, teams have been able to take Timmy and another guy out of the game, and the other two guys didn’t step up. When all four (Orr, Thomas, Frattaroli and Pletz) are contributing, there’s no doubt we’re a better team.
“I thought John Groh did a great job coming off the bench,” Clentimack added. “And I thought Anthony Thomas stepped up on the big stage.”
Lebanon Catholic started slowly to say the least, surrendering the first nine points of the game. But their full-court pressure and a couple of turnovers got the Beavers going.
Over a 7:15 stretch spanning the first and second quarters, Lebanon Catholic outscored Greenwood 20-6 to grab a five-point advantage.
“It was back and forth,” said Clentimack. “We got down, and I think the kids were excited. But we were able to get into our game and get some easy stuff.
“The key was, offensively, we were sluggish a little bit,” added Clentimack. “They (his players) may have fallen into the Giant Center shooting thing. It was nice to get some steals and get some lay-ups. I think the kids were a little too stoked, and I think it affected us the most on the defensive end.”
At one point this season, Lebanon Catholic sported an 11-2 overall mark.
“I thought we played pretty good all year long,” said Clentimack. “We went through the section (Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League) the first time 5-0, and teams remember that. But the kids responded.
“Yeah, I think we’ve been pretty consistent,” continued Clentimack. “We had to play every night. But here’s where we got into trouble, teams would beat us up. But when you get to this level, that’s not going to happen. We don’t always respond to physical play.”
“In the beginning of the season, we started off hot,” said Orr. “We had some little speed bumps. We stopped getting after it. Towards the end of the season we worked it out. We headed into districts playing like we can.”
LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cedar Crest: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA).
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012.
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)