Lebanon Catholic s Jaylan Colon has the ball knocked away by Lancaster Catholic s Erik Goldbach, back, as another Crusader, Eric Schneider (10), looks on
Lebanon Catholic s Jaylan Colon has the ball knocked away by Lancaster Catholic s Erik Goldbach, back, as another Crusader, Eric Schneider (10), looks on during Thursday night s Section Four matchup on Assumption Hill. Lancaster Catholic stifled the Beavers defensively all night long on the way to a 52-36 victory. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
The Lebanon Catholic boys' basketball team is currently engaged in an all-out search for the mojo it misplaced a few weeks back.

Hopefully the Beavers weren't counting on any assistance with their quest from Lancaster Catholic.

After all, it's kinda hard to find something when your line of vision is constantly being blocked and your freedom of movement is severely curtailed.

That's a roundabout way of saying Lancaster Catholic played some pretty hellacious defense against the Beavers in their Section Four rematch on Thursday night.

Suffocating, smothering, mojo-stifling, championship-caliber defense that resulted in Lebanon Catholic's fourth loss in five outings, a 52-36 decision on Assumption Hill.

The outcome allowed the first-place Crusaders (13-5, 10-3) to tighten their grip on a Section Four title race that a few weeks back appeared to be the Beavers' for the taking.

But after a perfect run through the first half of Section Four play - which included a 62-55 win over Lancaster Catholic on Jan. 2 - Lebanon Catholic (12-6, 7-6) has hit a bit of a rough patch while the defensive-minded Crusaders clearly have found their best form.

"I think since we beat 'em the first time, they're a different team," said Lebanon Catholic coach Scott Clentimack of the Crusaders. "They played much, much better. I think that (first game) kinda gave them a wakeup call. They were ready."

The Beavers, at least temporarily, are a different team, too. And not the same one that reeled off eight wins in nine tries before beginning this current skid with a home loss to Northern Lebanon two weeks ago.

"We lost a little mojo here somewhere along the line," Clentimack said. "It's a great group of kids, they're still confident. But now you can start to see that look in their eye, like 'What's happening?'"

There was no breaking out of the funk Thursday, not with the Crusaders employing in-your-shirt man-to-man defense fronted by scrappy junior guard Eric Schneider's ball-denying effort on Lebanon Catholic's senior catalyst Timmy Orr.

With Schneider and reserve Josh Riley setting the tone by holding Orr to a mere two first-half points on just two shots, Lancaster Catholic led from the middle of the first quarter on and was never really threatened after an 11-4 second-quarter burst gave it a 25-14 halftime lead.

But it wasn't just Orr that the Crusaders defended well. There were simply precious few open looks for the Beavers on Thursday, and even fewer opportunities to develop any kind of offensive rhythm.

Anthony Pletz managed a respectable 13-point night despite being harassed by speedy Randy Speller (team-high 11 points), and Alex Frattaroli hustled his way to 10. But as a unit the Beavers were completely shut down on the way to a season-low point total.

Lebanon Catholic s Anthony Pletz dribbles past Lancaster Catholic s Randy Speller on Thursday night during the Crusaders  52-36 win on Assumption Hill.
Lebanon Catholic s Anthony Pletz dribbles past Lancaster Catholic s Randy Speller on Thursday night during the Crusaders 52-36 win on Assumption Hill. Pletz led the Beavers with 13 points in the loss. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)

"Typically, we don't play passing lanes, we're more of a help-side defense," Lancaster Catholic coach Joe Klazas said. "But we changed things up, we said we wanted to try to limit touches for Orr and (Pletz). We were really trying to take their touches away as much as possible and get other people involved. The guys did a great job with it."

"We didn't get hardly any looks. We got nothing," Clentimack said. "They had two guys hounding Timmy and Pletzy, but then they had the other three guys in the lane. So even if we beat people off the dribble, we weren't able to get any looks. I give them credit. I would have never thought we'd score 36 points in a game, even on a bad night."

Bad as it was, the Beavers were still down just 19-14 after Orr tallied his first points with 2:10 left in the first half.

But from there, the Crusaders ran off the last six points of the half via two Omar Lopez buckets and an Erik Goldbach jumper, then got all eight of Evan Purvis' points in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second half to break the game open.

Lancaster Catholic's lead would grow as large as 46-27 on an inside score by Harry Heise with 5:50 left, before a late Beaver burst made the final score a bit more respectable.

The mojo, though, is still missing. But both Clentimack and his Lancaster Catholic counterpart expressed confidence that the search will eventually net some positive results. 

"I think they'll be fine," Klazas said. "Scott does a great job with them. They'll execute and get a couple wins going into the (district) playoffs, and I think it'll bring their confidence back."

"If I had to guess, I would think they're gonna respond in a positive way," Clentimack said. "The reason I say that is, it's a really, really close group. You don't have a clique of three here and four there, this is a group of 12 kids that all hang out together and all get along."

"I told them after the game, 'When things are going your way, it's great to be all happy and feel good about yourself. It's when they start to go this way that you really find out about yourself and who you are. Right now, this is where you really need to have each other's backs.' And I think they will."