BY JEFF FALK
ENOLA – Sometimes the Lebanon girls’ basketball team’s all has been enough this season. On other occasions it hasn’t been.
But the Cedar have never stopped giving it. They’ve never stopped bringing it.
On Friday evening at East Pennsboro High School, in the quarterfinals of the District Three Class AAAA playoffs, Lebanon again played with its heart, and even though it wasn’t enough, it didn’t have it broken. The Cedars fell behind Dover early, made a number of runs at the Eagles, but faltered down the stretch.
But it wasn’t for a lack of trying, or effort or hustle.
The loss relegated Lebanon, now 20-6, to the consolation bracket of a District Three Class AAAA tournament which sends seven representatives to the state playoffs. The sixth-seeded Cedars must win one of their next two games, the first of which will be played Monday at 5 p.m. at Northern York High School, against Red Lion, which fell to Cumberland Valley 51-29, to advance.
The third-seeded Eagles will carry a 23-2 overall mark into next week’s semifinals.
“I walked into the locker room and they were clapping,” said Brewer of his charges. “Their heads were up. They were disappointed they lost, but they’re refocused. They want to go to states. We’ve got to go .500 over the next two games to go to states.
“We didn’t play 32 minutes of our brand of basketball,” Brewer continued. “We played in spurts. I expected to win this game. They’re (the Eagles) a great team, but I thought we had great match-ups. We made poor turnovers that were unforced.”
After trailing by as many as eight points early, Lebanon appeared to have momentum on its side heading into the final quarter, thanks to Brittany Ulrich’s three-quarter-court, buzzer-beating trey at the end of the third. It had pulled the Cedars to within 34-32 Dover, but the Eagles notched the first four points of the fourth period to stem the tide.
Despite a three-pointer from Ulrich that got Lebanon to within 42-39 with 3:16 to go and an Alicia Haitos drive that moved LHS to within 43-41 with 2:23 left, the Cedars never stopped playing from behind. Ulrich was long a three-point attempt with 1:10 remaining that would’ve given the Cedars the lead and a Lebanon turnover 40 seconds later all but sealed its fate.
“Brittany Ulrich hit that big shot at the end of the third quarter,” said Brewer. “But we were never able to get over that hump, and get that two or three stops in-a-row we needed. For a while, it (trailing) limited us working against a zone. Shooting can be our strength, but it wasn’t tonight.
“It was a very physical game,” continued Brewer. “I like physical. I wish they (the officials) would’ve let them play all the time. But we weren’t able to get the ball inside to get to the foul line.”
Down a trey at the break, the Cedars tied the score at 26 courtesy of a Ulrich three-pointer and a Madison Rakow lay-in midway through the third period. But as the stanza was coming to a close, Dover rebuilt its lead to five points.
“It was kind of ‘three-point-or-nothing’ for us there for awhile,” said Brewer. “I’ll take responsibility for that. Towards the end of the game, we started attacking the zone better.
“In the locker room after the game, I told the girls I was proud of them,” added Brewer. “A couple of mistakes here or there is the difference in a playoff game.”
With the Eagles doing an admirable job of limiting Rakow’s touches inside, Ulrich led the Cedars with 17 points, while Chambers netted 11. Twenty-one of Lebanon’s point total came from beyond the arc.
The Eagles attempted more free throws in the game’s final 33 seconds than the Cedars did the entire game.
“For Brittany to play 32 minutes of no-help, no-break defense against a player of her (Dover’s Alayah Hall) caliber is asking a lot,” said Brewer. “She kept her head out there. She kept her composure. She stepped up and hit big shots. I thought every one of our girls played hard.
“The point guard (Hall), she’s their catalyst,” Brewer added. “Everything runs through her. Defensively, the focus was on her. When she gets into the paint, we’ve got to help. She had three or four ‘and-ones’, and that’s what happens when you get in the paint.”
The Cedars assumed their first lead of the game at 5-4, 3:34 in, on a three-pointer from Chambers. They also led 7-6 on a pair of Ulrich charity tosses a couple minutes later, but that would prove to be Lebanon’s last lead.
The Eagles tallied the last four points of the opening period, as well as the first two of the second, to establish a 12-7 margin. Ultimately, that lead reached 18-10, with three minutes of the first half remaining.
But with Kianna Graves, Chambers and Ulrich creating three-point trips, Lebanon ended the half on a 9-4 run, and with a 22-19 deficit.
“This is a phenomenal experience for those girls,” said Brewer. “They’ve earned it. They deserve an atmosphere like this.
“If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season we’d have two chances to make it to states, I would’ve taken it,” continued Brewer. “The girls would’ve taken it. It was a fun game. My impression of them (the Eagles) is that they just find a way to win.”