The Lancaster-Lebanon League girls’ basketball championship game is set for Thursday, with Pequea Valley squaring off against Lancaster Catholic. Here is a preview of the title game ...
THE GAME: Section 5 runner-up Pequea Valley (20-5) vs. Section 4 champ Lancaster Catholic (21-3), Thursday at Manheim Township, 7 p.m. … The Braves and Crusaders are former longtime section rivals; this is their first meeting since the 2017-18 regular season.
THE COACHES: Pequea Valley’s Jason McDonald is in his eighth season in Kinzers, and his teams are 91-93 overall. … Lancaster Catholic’s Charlie Detz is in his sixth season with the Crusaders, and his teams are 158-19 overall.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Pequea Valley staved off Section 3 runner-up Manheim Central 63-62 in the play-in round; topped Section 1 champ Hempfield 48-42 in the quarterfinals; and knocked off Section 3 champ Solanco 52-48 in the semifinals. … Catholic beat Section 1 runner-up Manheim Township 53-45 in the quarterfinals and knocked off Section 5 champ Lancaster Country Day 59-43 in the semifinals.
NUGGET: For the second year in a row, a play-in winner has reached the finale; Elco was the Section 4 runner-up last year, and reached the finals, falling to Lancaster Catholic. Now Pequea Valley has come through the play-in round to reach the title game.
L-L LEAGUE PLAYOFF HISTORY: This is Pequea Valley’s second league playoff trip — the Braves were tripped up in the play-in round in 2019 — and deepest trip in program history. … Catholic is angling for its third championship in a row, and the Crusaders own a league-record 14 titles. … Only two other schools have won three L-L League girls’ championships in a row: McCaskey (1982-84) and Manheim Township (1985-87). Catholic joins that elite group with a win Thursday.
ABOUT PEQUEA VALLEY: Up-tempo Braves are riding a 7-game winning streak, and are 10-1 in their last 11 games. … Probable starters: F Caroline Horst (17.6), G Abbey Leslie (11.7, 42 3’s), G Bethany Bills (11.0, 22 3’s), G Clara Neff (9.8, 25 3’s), F Rebecca Cox (5.5). … Top sub: G Brooke Liney (5.3, 27 3’s). … Pequea Valley has a league-high 116 3-pointers, and the Braves are not shy about shooting it from deep; Leslie had seven treys in the quarterfinals against Hempfield, and she has 25 3’s in the last eight games. Leslie is also scoring at a 12.3 clip over that stretch. … Last 10 games for Horst: 16.9 points, and the Muhlenberg recruit is up to 1,044 career points for the Braves. … Bills had 18 points in the play-in game vs. Manheim Central game, and Neff and Liney have five 3-pointers apiece in the league playoffs. … Pequea Valley is the No. 3 seed in the upcoming District 3 Class 3A playoffs, and the Braves are set to host No. 6 Hanover in a quarterfinal-round game on Feb. 18.
QUOTABLE: “Confidence and the belief that we can do it, that’s what helped us get here,” McDonald said. “They’re all believing in each other. They’ve all come together and they’re all doing this together. That’s been the difference.”
ABOUT LANCASTER CATHOLIC: Defensive-minded Crusaders have also won seven games in a row, and are 12-1 in their last 13 games. … Probable starters: G Sommer Reeser (13.0, 66 3’s), F Naomi Zulueta (8.8), G Katie Haefner (7.0, 9 3’s), F Cassie Peris (6.7), G Marlia Matters (3.5). … Top subs: G Bryanna Hicks (10.0, 23 3’s), F Zaniah Banks (6.5, 11 3’s), F Sophia Wentz (2.7). … Catholic is right behind Pequea Valley with 113 3-pointers; Reeser leads the league with 66 treys, and she has a league-record 221 career 3’s. She’s also scoring at a 17.8 clip over the last four games and is up to 1,126 career points. … Hicks popped in a season-high 21 points against Lancaster Country Day in the semifinals in a clash of section champs and D3 No. 1 seeds. … Haefner and Peris are Elizabethtown College recruits. ... Catholic is the No. 1 seed in the upcoming District 3 Class 4A bracket; Crusaders get the winner of Kennard-Dale vs. Fleetwood at home in the quarterfinals on Feb. 21. Catholic is the back-to-back reigning champ in that bracket.
QUOTABLE: “It’s a great matchup because they’ll also go up-tempo,” Detz said. “For us, it’s going to come down to pressure, and if they can handle our pressure.”
WHAT TO WATCH: Both teams thrive in transition, and love to apply full-court pressure and make you earn every trip. Perimeter defense is key here; both teams have a penchant for making 3-pointers and aren’t shy about letting it fly from the arc. Horst and Cox are tricky on the boards for the Braves, and they’ll tussle with Catholic’s Zulueta, Peris, Banks and Wentz in the lane. Keep an eye on treys made and the rebounding total. Those numbers will go a long way in determining who wins league gold.