After an extended layoff following their final L-L League game, it took a little while, but four Beavers scored in double figures Friday night as Catholic clicked for a 70-45 victory over Antietam in the district quarterfinals before a crowded house on Assumption Hill.
The win advances Catholic (16-7) into Monday's semifinal against New Hope Academy at 6 p.m. at East Pennsboro. The district final is scheduled for March 1 at the Giant Center. Since the top four teams reach the PIAA state tournament, the win also guaranteed Catholic three more games and a spot in states.
"I thought all along that this team had a chance to win a district championship," said coach Scott Clentimack. "It's still one game at a time. And we'll probably have to play a very good New Hope team Monday night. They remind me a lot of the old Scotland teams. But once we started playing our game tonight, we did pretty well.
The extended layoff left just enough rust on the Beavers for them to fall behind 10-4. By the end of the first quarter, however, they were ahead 18-10 as Thomas sparked the early surge with eight of his 15 and Pletz hit two treys.
Orr went to work on the boards in the second quarter and the Beavers responded with a 21-point period to open a 39-21 halftime lead. A third Pletz "3" made it 26-17 with 3:36 left in the half, while Catholic turned up the defensive pressure.
The Mountaineers, who at 13-11 were the fourth-place team from Berks County's Division III, were not only playing catch up, but also fouling a lot. Three Antietam starters were in foul trouble by the second period, and Andy Wrobel was the first to foul out with 4:58 left in the third period.
The uptempo game went Catholic's way as its pressure defense created easy baskets. The other big differences were Orr's rebounding and leadership.
"That's when we're at our best, when Timmy's hitting the boards and distributing the ball," said Clentimack. "He's a senior now and playing his last games. What does he want to do? He wants to go out as a district champion.
"All four of our leading scorers were in double figures, and that's the way we like it.
Orr added 10 third-quarter points as Catholic increased its lead. A brief spurt by the Mountaineers just prolonged the inevitable.
Pletz stole a ball and went the distance with 3:45 left in the third to put the Beavers in front, 48-32. Orr then sank two free throws at the 1:59 mark of the third to make it, 54-35.
Antietam didn't have much of an answer, even when Clentimack went to his bench.
"I thought we started kind of slow," Orr said. "We weren't quite ready for the intensity they brought early. But once we started picking up our defensive pressure, it started creating opportunities for us offensively. As far as rebounding, I'm usually bigger than the guard who's playing me. So I try to get into position to rebound and make something happen."
After an impressive start to the season, Catholic had an up-and-down second half in L-L play. But Clentimack said even that didn't bother him.
"We went 4-5 in the second half of the season, but except for maybe the Lancaster Catholic game, every game went down to the wire," he said. "We were the only team that went undefeated in our section in the first half. So every team was laying for us. They wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.
"But we came back and beat Annville-Cleona the second time and went to Pequea Valley and beat a good Pequea Valley team on their court. So even the 4-5 second half didn't bother me that much."
The long layoff was also somewhat disconcerting.
"Seventeen days is a long time," Clentimack said, "but we went to Milton Hershey and scrimmaged and scrimmaged a second team. So we got some work in. We'll go to East Pennsboro Monday and see what happens."