Crusaders clinch Catholic tops A-C for Section Four crown
BY JASON FULGINITI, Sports Staff
Let's start with the important stuff.
Lancaster Catholic's girls' basketball team rolled to a 64-48 L-L League Section Four victory over Annville-Cleona on Tuesday night in Lancaster.
In addition to keeping the Crusaders (12-0 L-L, 16-0 overall) undefeated, the win enabled Catholic to clinch a third straight Section Four title and its 10th section crown in the last 14 years -- with two weeks remaining in the L-L regular season.
Still, while those were all good things for Crusaders coach Lamar Kauffman, he thought something else was equally important Tuesday.
That being how his team played, with the L-L playoffs rapidly approaching.
"I told (the Crusaders after Tuesday's win), if we're going to play that poorly there's no sense even going to playoffs," Kauffman said. "If you can't play defense and shoot the ball better than that you're not going to advance in playoffs.
"You play basketball to get better, not just to win," he continued. "Some games you can lose and look like a basketball team. This game, we won but we didn't look like a basketball team."
While the Crusaders forced 22 Annville turnovers by game's end, they forced just 12 of those in the final three quarters -- very un-Catholic like.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders finished a lackluster 39.7 percent from the floor as a team on 29-for-73 shooting.
As a result, despite increasing its 13-point halftime lead to 18 (36-18) on Porscha Speller's jumper from the right corner with 5:52 left in the third quarter, Catholic struggled for a while to put the Little Dutchmen (7-5, 10-6) away.
In fact, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Alex Siebecker (15 points), Annville -- which got a game-high 21 points from Elaina Wanamaker and 11 more from Kayla Parks -- cut its deficit to a manageable 41-31 with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter.
"I thought we played hard from start to finish," Dutchmen coach Jaime Walborn said. "We didn't give up and we didn't hang our heads."
But after Catholic got four points from freshman forward Caroline Scarff during a 7-2 mini-run to end the third, the Crusaders finally began to pull away with another 8-3 spurt to start the fourth.
Catholic eventually took its biggest lead of the night (60-40) on an Emily Colon free throw with 2:19 left to play.
In the end, Speller tied Wanamaker with a game-high 21 points, joining Catholic senior center Emily Martin (14 points) and Scarff (10) in double figures.
Not that Kauffman didn't see the good in all of that.
But considering the Crusaders have barely been tested the last six weeks -- having outscored their opponents by an average of 33.4 points per game prior to Tuesday -- is a concern for a coach who simply wants to see his team live up to its capabilities.
Which means executing and improving -- even when you're winning by 30.
"Every time you step on the court you're trying to sharpen your skills for the (big) game you know is coming," Kauffman said. "You can't drift into the playoffs. You have to run into the playoffs.
"We're still in the driver's seat," he added with a smile, "but we've just got to make sure we wear our seatbelt so we can obtain our goals."
A murky Section Two race cleared up a bit when section frontrunners Cocalico (10-2 L-L, 13-2 overall) and Ephrata (9-3, 12-5) both won.
Cocalico's 35-30 victory over Elizabethtown helped it maintain a one-game lead over Ephrata, which kept pace with a 42-25 win over Solanco.
E-town (7-5, 9-8) and Solanco (7-5, 9-8) are now three games off the section lead with four regular season games remaining and two back in the race for the section's second and final L-L playoff berth.