Leah Laubach came into Friday’s action with a grand total of five field goals made this season for Lancaster Catholic’s girls basketball team.
In a showdown game and in crunch time, the defensive-minded sophomore bench player hit what she described as the biggest shot of her young hoops career.
Locked in a 29-29 tie with Manheim Central, Laubach launched and swished the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:44 to play, and the host Crusaders overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Barons 42-32 in a much-anticipated L-L League Section 3-4 crossover clash between a pair of first place teams.
“Good feeling,” Laubach said about her go-ahead arc jumper. “I was making sure that I got it in rhythm and shot it with good form and followed through. I’m happy.”
As were the Crusaders, who dodged a Central squad that was minus two starters — including the league’s leading scorer — but had a 29-27 lead when Emma Herman squared up and knocked down a top-of-the-key 3-pointer with three ticks left in the third quarter.
Undaunted, Catholic (8-0 league, 13-3 overall, solo Section 4 leader) went 8-0 to open the fourth; that clip included Laubach’s go-ahead trey, Laubach’s free throw for a two-possession lead, and Vivian Klemmer’s post bucket for a 35-29 lead with 3:48 to play.
“Big shot,” Catholic coach Charlie Detz said about Laubach’s money-time 3-pointer. “She’s not afraid to take it, and that was awesome. For us, this game was another lesson. And we need to take this lesson and move forward.”
The Barons (6-1, 9-3, solo Section 3 leader) were without jackrabbit guard Summer Bates and ace 1,000-point scorer Maddie Knier, who is the league’s leading scorer at 24.2 points a game. That twosome spent the evening on the bench, resting cranky ankle injuries.
Catholic wasn’t aware of the Barons’ injury woes, and had to scrap its game plan literally less than an hour before tip-off. That plan was for sending heavy defensive rotations at Knier.
The Barons didn’t sulk, and were down by just 17-14 at the half. Central caught Catholic at 21-21 on Rachel Nolt’s 3-ball with 3:47 to go in the third, and the Barons took their first lead, 24-23, on Abbie Reed’s triple with 3:08 to go in the third. And when Herman’s 3-pointer ripped through the cord to beat the third-quarter horn, Central danced off into the fourth with the lead.
Reed scored a game-high 11 points for the Barons.
“Knier is the leading scorer in the league, and obviously she’s a great player,” Detz said. “But they have a pretty good team with some really nice pieces. She just happens to make them go. A lot of times a team will rise up when they see their star player sitting on the bench, and that’s what they did.”
Detz’s message before sending his team out for the fourth: Breathe. Pick it up defensively. Get transition buckets and finagle a working lead.
“It was chaotic,” Laubach said. “We had to play better and pick it up and try and get the lead.”
Catholic immediately knotted it up at 29-29 on Carleigh Anderson’s jumper. A little over a minute later, Laubach’s 3-pointer gave the Crusaders the lead for good.
Catholic also received some key contributions from another bench player, Elizabeth Cloonan, whose baseline runner gave the Crusaders a 23-21 lead midway through the third quarter. She also poked away a steal, had an assist, and plucked three defensive rebounds off the bench.
And when the dust settled, Catholic survived a very shorthanded, but very game Barons’ outfit.
“There were a thousand excuses, and we didn’t use even one,” Central coach Tyson Hayes said. “We had nothing to lose, so we wanted to go out and give it a total effort, and that’s what we did. To come on the road against a really good team, and just fight and have a total team effort … they really bought into what we were trying to do. They gave it everything they had — and then some.”