Not coincidentally, the playoff-bound Annville-Cleona girls' basketball team showcased both of those critically-important attributes on Friday night.
Combining a strong, heady performance at both ends of the floor from junior point guard Kayla Parks with an aggressive, highly-effective display of team defense, A-C produced a postseason-worthy 45-36 victory over county rival Lebanon Catholic on Assumption Hill.
Annville-Cleona didn't need its 13th victory of the season against eight defeats to lock down a playoff spot, since it had already secured Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three Class AA berths prior to its second meeting with the Beavers.
What it did need was a win filled with ample displays of mental and physical toughness against a Lebanon Catholic squad that had outworked and outfought it en route to a 47-42 win in the first meeting between the two on Jan. 7.
"We were disappointed with how we played the first time," said A-C coach Jaime Walborn. "They (the players) were disappointed, the coaches were disappointed. So we wanted to come and show what we really can do. After that game, a lot of people were saying we looked like we lacked energy, and we did. We wanted to bring it defensively."
A quick glance at the stat sheet confirms that A-C (10-5,
Senior forward Elaina Wanamaker was A-C's defensive catalyst with five blocked shots - all of them of the emphatic variety - while Parks and Alex Siebecker effectively led the charge in locking down the perimeter.
"I think we really played together, and I think we really played tough defense," said Parks, who also tallied a game-high 19 points, of the difference between Friday's performance and the initial scrap with Catholic. "We worked together more. It was really nice. It was a good push for the things (playoffs) that come ahead. We just gotta play like this every game."
"They took Abby Shay out of her game and they took Holly Marinkov out of her game," said Lebanon Catholic coach Patti Hower, whose squad fell to 11-10 overall and 6-9 in Section Four. "That's the difference. They're our two leading scorers. They did a great job defensively on both of them. When you don't have your two leading scorers on their game, it's gonna be tough."
But for a time, A-C
The Little Dutchmen would inch in front 15-14 at the half but were still scoring at a snail's pace until Parks led a 17-8 burst over the final six minutes of the third.
The junior floor leader totaled nine points in the period and also assisted on a key bucket by Wanamaker in the stretch that saw A-C take control for good.
"She's improved so much from last year to this year," Walborn said of Parks. "She's been starting since she was a freshman, and she does it all. She rebounds, she gets assists, she scores. And we usually put her and Alex on their best offensive players. She did a nice job tonight of running the show for us."
"I have to read the defense, make good passes," said Parks of her role on the floor. "That's key. Just really keep the momentum going and keep everyone positive."
Two Parks free throws gave A-C its largest lead of the night at 32-20 with 1:27 left in the third and seemed to be the straw that broke the Beavers' back.
But to its credit, Catholic, led by 13 points from Helene Reist, fought its way back into the game, running off eight straight points from there to climb to within 32-28 on two Shay free throws with 7:23 to go.
A-C responded with a baseline leaner by Siebecker and a Wanamaker runner to go back up 36-28 with 6:17 left, but Catholic remained stubborn. And after a Samantha Fortna free throw with 2:17 left, the Beavers were down just 36-32 and the outcome was still very much in doubt.
And then it wasn't, thanks to Parks, who first set up a short jumper by Barb Inman that pushed the lead back to six with 2:05 left, then combined with Siebecker to hit seven of 11 free-throw tries in the final 1:09 to sew up the win.
Suffice it to say, it was a much different performance than the one A-C turned in against the Beavers a month ago. And it came in the type of loud, high-intensity environment that sometimes invites trouble for a visiting team.
"I don't think we kept our heads down at all," Parks said, "and we didn't get down on ourselves. We didn't let the atmosphere pressure us. We just held it together and played our game."
"We all encouraged each other. We just really came together as a team instead of us falling apart. We pushed each other and held each other up."