Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
'A' game needs some 'D,' too
nManheim Township girls ready to play similarly defensive-minded Cumberland Valley. BY JASON FULGINITI, Sports Staff
For golfers, the hole can sometimes seem like it's the size of a thimble.
Baseball players can go 25 at-bats without a hit.
And there isn't a wide receiver out there who hasn't dropped a couple of passes on the same afternoon.
The bottom line is, in sports, there is such a thing as an off day.
Basketball is no exception.
But it's also not an excuse, according to Sean Burkhart, even on those days when it feels like finding a needle in a haystack would be easier than putting the ball in the basket.
"No matter how things are going offensively," Manheim Township's girls' basketball coach said earlier this season, "you can always play 'D.' "
Cumberland Valley's players would tend to agree.
All of which could make for interesting theater when Township (23-5) and CV (23-6) square off in a PIAA Class AAAA second-round game tonight at 7 at Lebanon High School.
It will be the second meeting between the two teams in less than two weeks -- the Eagles having outlasted Township, 40-28, in the District Three Class AAAA fifth-place game Feb. 28.
"At this point, you're looking at two of the last 16 (AAAA) teams in the state," Burkhart said. "They got here for a reason and we got here for a reason."
If for no other reason than that both teams know how to defend, which was evident the last time they met.
CV senior forward and leading scorer Jackie Falconer (26 3-pointers) is averaging 15.7 points per game.
Against Township, she was held to eight, which tied for her third-lowest output of the season.
Eagles freshman guard Kelly Jekot (team-high 38 3's), who is averaging 12.3 ppg, also was held to eight points against the Streaks, marking just the sixth time in 27 games that she failed to score nine or more.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were returning the favor, holding Township, which was averaging 50.6 points per contest, to a season-low 28.
Much of that can be attributed to the low post work they did on Alexandra Leslie, the Blue Streaks' 6-foot-2 junior forward and leading scorer.
In the 12 games prior to Township's meeting with CV, Leslie was averaging 16.8 ppg, including a 32-point effort in the Streaks' 84-78 triple-overtime loss to Central Dauphin in the district quarterfinals Feb. 22.
Against, the Eagles, she was held to 11 points, and just three field goals.
"Leslie was kind of our focal point in terms of our approach," CV coach Bill Wolf told Pennlive.com after that game. "We wanted to get a lot of defensive pressure out on the perimeter and go ahead and front her. We gave good supporting weak side help and when she did get it we wanted everybody to close down on her."
It apparently was only a warmup for the Eagles, who put together another stellar defensive effort in last Friday's 35-34 first-round upset of District One runner-up Mount Saint Joseph, which Wolf called "one of our best defensive games of the season" in a postgame interview with Pennlive.
Meanwhile, Township was working its own defensive magic Friday night in Germantown, where it limited Philadelphia Central to just 20 points in a 61-20 rout -- during which the Streaks built a 14-0 lead after one quarter and a commanding 34-6 margin by the half.
It was the 12th time this season that Township, which is allowing an average of 33.0 ppg, had held an opponent to 30 points or less, and the seventh time the Streaks had limited a team to 21 points or less.
Conversely, Cumberland Valley is allowing 45.2 points per game -- 12 more, on average, than Township.
Not that any of those numbers will mean anything when the two teams square off again tonight.
"We're going to have to have our 'A' game to win," Burkhart said. "All five of the kids (the Eagles) have on the floor at any one time can all handle (the ball), they can all shoot and they play very good defense.
"They're a team that's capable of winning a state championship. So I think they have something to prove."
How do you counter that?
"We've got to play 'D,' " Burkhart said.