With only the section champions advancing to the L-L League girls basketball playoff bracket this season, that means just one quarterfinal game. And that game is Tuesday night. Here’s a preview …
WINNER GETS: Section 4 champ Lancaster Catholic — at Catholic — in a league semifinal showdown on Thursday at 7 p.m. … Thursday’s other semifinal pits Section 5 champ Lancaster Mennonite at Section 1 champ Hempfield; that tip-time is TBD. ... The L-L League title game is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Manheim Township; Catholic is the 3-time reigning champ.
WIN AND ADVANCE: E-town had to survive Monday’s wildly exciting 1-game playoff vs. Section 2 co-champ Ephrata to earn a spot opposite Cocalico. Ironically, the Bears won the ‘play-in’ game at Cocalico, so they’ll make the return trip to Denver less than 24 hours later. This is the first time E-town and Cocalico will meet this season; the Bears have only played their Section 2 games and crossover games this winter.
FUN FACT: E-town is trying to become the third team in as many years to advance to an L-L League championship game after winning a 'play-in' game just to reach the main bracket. Two years ago, Elco made it all the way through. Last year it was Pequea Valley. The Raiders and the Braves both fell to Lancaster Catholic in the finale — but navigated through a long week to reach the title game.
THE COACHES: E-town’s John Myers (8th season; 92-91 overall) and Cocalico’s Andrew Garrett (5th season; 53-53 overall) will direct their respective clubs. … Myers and his Bears are riding a 4-game winning streak, and they’ve won six out of seven. … Garrett and his Eagles had their late-season 9-game winning streak snapped last Friday with a 48-46 crossover setback at Lancaster Catholic — whom this winner gets in the semifinals.
E-TOWN PROBABLE STARTERS: G Jade Love-Morris (9.5 points a game, 11 3-pointers), F Elise Hassinger (9.4), G Ainsley Raybold (7.3, 21 3’s), Carly Sedun (7.2), G Emma Blyler (4.5, 10 3’s). … Now would probably be a good time to mention that E-town’s 6-foot-2 low-post threat Macy Seaman (9.4) was last spotted departing Cocalico on Monday night needing the use of crutches, after rolling an ankle late in the third quarter vs. Ephrata. Gut-hunch is that she won’t start, but perhaps she could be available for some spot minutes. Seaman, a Kean University recruit, has been struggling with a gimpy ankle the last couple of games. Stay tuned. … Key subs: F Taryn Hummer (1.9), G Abby Sedun (1.4, 2 3’s).
COCALICO PROBABLE STARTERS: G Hannah Custer (16.7, 9 3’s), G Izzy Mack (9.6, 30 3’s), G Kiersten Shipton (7.5, 25 3’s), F Olivia Sensenig (5.1), F Naleah Sauder (3.3, 4 3’s). … Key subs: F Teagan Sahm (1.6), F Erin Henry (0.6).
WHAT TO WATCH: It all starts with the lead guards, and there are a pair of good ones on display in this showdown. Raybold is coming off her best game of the season for E-town; she popped in a campaign-best 16 points with four 3-pointers, including a pair of gotta-have, money-time treys to spark E-town’s riveting rally over Ephrata in the 1-game playoff. … Meanwhile, Custer is having a whopper season for Cocalico. It seems like every game she makes a key play during a key juncture, as the Richmond lacrosse commit helped will the Eagles to the outright Section 3 banner. Custer, who is sitting on 870 career points, has done it all for Cocalico: Score at the rim and from deep, penetrate and dish, defend, get out and run in transition and — perhaps most importantly — be a leader. Period. … If you like dirty-work kids, this game is for you; E-town’s Hassinger and Sedun and Cocalico’s Sensenig and Sauder do all the little things that don’t end up in a box score, like defend, scrap, rebound and get on the floor. May the best dirty-working team win, which means keep an eye on the rebounding and turnover numbers. ... One more area to watch: Late-game foul-shooting percentages. If this game comes down to the wire and both teams are in the bonus, those 1-and-1's will be mega important.
THE CRUX: Perimeter defense is a must, particularly for E-town, which must mark Cocalico sharpshooters Mack and Shipton at the arc; Mack’s 30 3’s are tops in the L-L League, and Shipton’s 25 are third-most. They’ve both hit countless crunch-time treys this season, and they’ll keep E-town’s Love-Morris, the Bears’ open-court D wizard, plenty busy. … Both of these teams have plenty of firepower, so the team that defends best, it says here, wins — and punches its ticket to the big city for a date with Lancaster Catholic on Thursday.
QUOTABLE: “This means a lot to us. Everybody has been dealing with the COVID stuff this year, and we had some points this season where we went three weeks without playing a game because other teams weren’t able to play us. So we’re excited with how far we’ve come together as a team.” — E-town’s Ainsley Raybold, after the Bears beat Ephrata in a 1-game playoff on Monday.