LANCASTER-LEBANON LEAGUE GIRLS' BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS
Good start keys L-S in opening win BY KEVIN FREEMAN, Sports Writer
If it's possible for a team with a 20-1 record to have a concern, Bella Miranda said it was the way her team started games.
The Lampeter-Strasburg junior guard said her team has lacked something after the opening tip.
Looking to rectify that situation was fuel enough for the Pioneers, who streaked out to leads of 9-0 and 17-8 on the way to defeating Cocalico 53-42 in a Lancaster-Lebanon League girls' basketball quarterfinal game Tuesday night in Strasburg.
L-S senior center Lexie Lantz was a key to that early success, scoring seven of the Pioneers' first 10 points en route to a game-high 20 points.
L-S (21-1) advances to Thursday's semifinals, where it will meet Manheim Township at 7 p.m. at Conestoga Valley.
"We wanted to come out really strong and send them a message,'' Miranda said. "(Tonight's) start was really good.''
The message was aimed at the Eagles, who will play L-S in the first round of the district playoffs next week.
But advancing in the L-L playoffs was the immediate goal and Miranda had a big part in attaining it. She distributed the ball, took the ball to the basket and moved the ball around the Eagles' defense.
"Bella's scored more points in a game before (she had six Tuesday), but I thought this was her best game,'' said L-S coach Anthony Fink. "She's played great defense this year and lately, she's been more aggressive offensively.''
Cocalico (18-6), coming off the loss to Ephrata in the Section Two title game last Friday, never let L-S run away. An 8-0 run spanning the end of the second quarter and early minutes of the third, cut the Pioneers' lead to three, 23-20.
"We played even with them but got off to a really bad start,'' Cocalico coach Anthony DiMatteo said. "We made some (early) fundamental mistakes and, credit to them, they made their layups. Besides that, I thought we battled them.''
Cocalico sliced L-S's lead to four at 29-25 in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Emily White, who shared team high scoring honors with Rebecca Grube and Marissa Gingrich, each of whom scored 10 points apiece.
"We were getting a little nervous but once the score gets close, you start pushing a little harder to try and increase the lead and get back in control of the game,'' Lantz said.
A 9-2 run was the product of that heightened intensity by the Pioneers, who got six points in the spurt from Taylor Lininger, including the second of her two treys in the game.
Lantz spent a bit more time on the bench than normal because of foul trouble. But her replacement, Tori Shultz, scored eight points off the bench.
Up next for the Pioneers: Township.
"They will be tough,'' Fink said. "The question is, can our quickness neutralize their size. Lexi will give them problems but they have a nice 6-2 center (Alexandra Leslie). If we play well, we'll be in the game with them.''
Another strong start to the game would help, too.