BY JEFF FALK
ASSUMPTION HILL – Could it be that the Annville-Cleona girls are a better team without Tori Siebecker in the lineup? Don’t be silly.
But what is possible is that the Little Dutchmen are a pretty good squad without her – and that while she is out, they can become an even better one.
On Friday night, the Tori Siebecker-less Little Dutchmen defeated a pretty good Lebanon Catholic team 34-28. With other players stepping up, the Little Dutchmen outscored the Beavers 14-8 over the final eight minutes of action.
The triumph moved Annville-Cleona to 10-3 on the season and 5-2 in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Lebanon Catholic’s second straight setback left it 10-3 overall and 5-2 in the circuit.
The contest served as the opener of a girls-boys doubleheader between the two rivals.
Siebecker, A-C’s leading scorer and one of the top players in Lebanon County, was on the bench with a broken pinky finger on her shooting hand that she injured on Tuesday.
“I want the girls to be confident coming into the game,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Jamie Podjed. “They have some big shoes to fill. I think they came out and some of the other kids stepped up. There are some girls who are stepping up and wanting the ball in her (Siebecker’s) absence. It’s helping us grow as a team.”
“They may have even been a little more competitive without her,” said Lebanon Catholic head coach Patti Hower of Siebecker. “We know what it’s like to be without a player. But they’ve (the Little Dutchmen) got nice balance. Everybody can handle the ball. Everybody can score.”
While points were at a premium all evening, the other Siebecker – Tori’s sister Alex – tallied all of Annville-Cleona’s during a decisive 8-3 stretch early in the final quarter. That gave the Little Dutchmen a 28-23 margin, and the Beavers failed to record a single point over the final 2:04 of the contest.
Elaina Wanamaker and Kayla Parks contributed some insurance for Annville-Cleona in the closing moments.
“We threw the ball away at key times, but we didn’t panic,” said Podjed. “We didn’t sulk about our mistakes. We didn’t dwell on them.
“I said to my assistant coach going into the fourth quarter it was 20-20,” Podjed continued. “Our game plan was, because we didn’t have a lot of subs, we had to work it on offense, hold it and work the clock. We didn’t want to get into a running game with them.”
“We played terrible,” said Hower. “You’ve got to give them credit for their defense, but we missed shots five feet from the basket. The bottom line is you’ve got to make shots.”
Wanamkaer paced the Little Dutchmen with 13 points, and Alex Siebecker contributed 11. Siebecker also did an admirable job of hounding Catholic star point guard Stevie Fortna, holding her to four points.
Lebanon Catholic made just three of seven free-throw attempts.
“It’s a county school,” said Podjed, a former Lebanon Catholic player who has seen the rivalry with Annville-Cleona from both sides. “It’s a doubleheader with the boys. The girls love this game because of the atmosphere. It’s like a district (playoff) game. And there’s a connection we have with Patti and her girls off the court.
“Elaina played good defense,” Podjed continued. “She played hard all night. She played like a leader. And Alex played hard all game. Stevie is tough.”
“We go as she (Fortna) goes,” said Hower. “(Alex) Siebecker did a nice job on her. She’s a little longer. But it’s a team sport, and someone else has got to step up.
“That’s probably our top rival, them (the Little Dutchmen) and Lancaster Catholic,” continued Hower. “And you’ve got to throw Elco in there. We don’t normally have a packed house. That’s good. We want to play in this type of atmosphere.”
Getting three-pointers from A. Siebecker, Wanamaker and Parks, Annville-Cleona jumped out to a 12-2 lead. But the Little Dutchmen managed just two points over the first 7:56 of the second quarter, as Catholic closed to 16-15 on a Holly Marinkov trey.
“In the beginning, they were nervous,” said Podjed of her troops. “That’s typically how we play, one pass and shoot. We talked about not getting into foul trouble. But they (the Beavers) don’t have a lot of subs either.”
“Defensively, we were OK,” said Hower. “Our scoring was a combination of things. They (the Little Dutchmen) played good defense and sometimes we took some bad shots.”
Lebanon Cathholic outscored Annville-Cleona 5-2 in the third period.
“This definitely gave us some confidence,” said Podjed. “We’ve got some big games coming up. We want to go down to Mennonite and give them a game.”
“We were in such a good spot a week ago,” said Hower. “Now we have some tough games ahead of us. We have to bounce back. It was disappointing, but not a lack of effort. We couldn’t score, and it sort of snow-balled on us.
“Obviously tonight we didn’t play well,” Hower added. “Tuesday we played a very good Mennonite team. We scored 54 points and lost by 20. But there’s a lot of season left.”