Either way, the Lebanon Catholic girls' basketball team didn't have what it took Saturday afternoon to extend its season.
Needing a win not only to continue the defense of their District Three title, but also to secure a berth in the PIAA Class A state girls' tournament, the second-seeded Beavers took to the court for the first time in 17 days when they hosted Halifax on Assumption Hill.
"That was my big concern, having game legs, and I think we did, it's just they were quicker," Hower said. "They were more athletic, and they had that foot speed."
Catholic (12-11) got off to a good start. After giving up a quick two off the opening tip to Halifax senior point guard Madison Bingaman, Shay opened the scoring for Catholic. Halifax turned the ball over, and Helene Reist put Catholic up 4-2 a little over two minutes into the game.
Shay's presence inside and Marinkov's outside shooting looked to spell victory for the Beavers, but a feisty Wildcat team just kept coming.
The quickness of Halifax (15-9) got the Beavers' Samantha Fortna in foul trouble early. The Catholic guard was forced to watch the final three minutes of the first quarter from the bench with two fouls.
While the Beavers were able to adjust without Fortna, they weren't able to do the same without Shay, who also picked up her second foul in the first quarter. Nevertheless, Catholic closed out the first quarter with a 13-11 lead.
The Beavers forced an early second-quarter turnover but weren't able to capitalize. After a Halifax rebound, Wildcat junior Kylee Sorichetti tied the game. Less than a minute later, Shay picked up foul No. 3.
Still, Hower rolled the dice and left the senior forward in the game, only pulling her out with 16 seconds on the clock before halftime.
In the interim, Shay did her share of damage, going coast-to-coast after stealing the ball away immediately after that third foul, scoring her first of nine points in the quarter, the final seven of which helped bring Catholic back from a hole midway through the second quarter and lead 27-26 at the break.
Using their quickness, Halifax managed to hold a 24-17 lead with a little over two minutes before the half as four different players scored for the visitors. Shay's bucket and foul shot along with 1-of-2 free-throw shooting from Julia Jackson pulled Catholic to within 24-21.
Halifax got a quick two from Brianna Custer and then watched its lead vanish as Shay and Reist hit jumpers, and Shay then closed out the scoring for the half from the line, sinking a pair with 16 seconds on the clock to put the Beavers up 27-26.
Catholic missed a layup and turned the ball over on its first possessions of the third quarter while Halifax got a "3" from Rylee Gonsar and two foul shots from Morgan Cox. Still the Beavers battled back to 31-29 behind two more points from Shay.
After a time-out, Shay picked up foul No. 4 on a Tess Kieffer drive. Two possessions later, Halifax got what it wanted: Shay on the bench with her fifth foul. And then the game got away from Lebanon Catholic.
"When you lose your leading scorer and leader, it's kind of tough," Hower said. "I thought the kids that went in there did a good job, but we are not used to that combination."
Without Shay, Lebanon Catholic looked to sniper Marinkov, who nailed back-to-back "3s," pulling the Beavers back to within five points at 40-35, but more fouls on Lebanon Catholic and a non-call on another Marinkov shot allowed Halifax to coast to a 44-36 lead at the end of the third.
After each team committed a pair of turnovers to start the fourth, Fortna added two for the Beavers, but it wasn't enough as Halifax scored eight points before Marinkov was whistled for her fifth foul with 2:58 to go in the game.
Fortna hit another basket and Monica Pastal went 2-for-4 from the line to close the scoring for Lebanon Catholic. When the final buzzer rang, a jubilant Halifax team celebrated its 64-46 win.
In the end, the quickness of the Wildcats was what stood out to Hower as the key to the game.
"That's the advantage they had over us; they were quick," Hower said. "It made it tough to match up man-to-man, and then when we went to a zone it spread us out and again they took advantage of their quickness."
The loss closed out the careers of Beaver seniors Gross, Marinkov, Shay and Amelia Clay.