Four takeaways from the latest in Lebanon County high school hoops:
Pierre shines as Beavers rise: Last season, Neesha Pierre was a key contributor to the Lebanon Catholic girls' basketball team's return to prominence that culminated with the program's 17th District 3 Class A title.
But as a then freshman, Pierre, also a top-notch soccer player, contributed more raw athleticism than pure basketball acumen to the Beavers' title run.
This season, Pierre has smoothed out some of the rough edges of her game and is emerging as one of the county's top all-around players.
Her development was most noticeable on Tuesday night during Catholic's 58-52 overtime upset of Manheim Township. In the win, Pierre tallied a game-high 20 points, including the go-ahead bucket early in overtime, and more importantly looked composed and comfortable while doing so.
Following Pierre's continued basketball maturation should be one of the more intriguing aspects of what is shaping up as a most interesting and entertaining girls' basketball season in Lebanon County.
Austin dominant for Crest: The Cedar Crest girls basketball team enjoyed a happy holiday season due in part to its run to the Eastern York Rotary Club tournament title in Wrightsville.
A good portion of the holiday cheer came about via junior center Alyssa Austin's performance in Wednesday's 60-41 win over Eastern York in the championship game.
Always a formidable post presence, the 6-1 Austin raised her dominance to another level on Wednesday, recording a triple-double of 16 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocked shots in just three quarters of the blowout win.
Yikes. The scariest thing about Austin's performance for future Falcon opponents is the fact that it did not represent the only standout effort of the night.
Point guard Ariel Jones pumped in 14 points on the way to earning tournament MVP honors, while role player Skyanne Yancey erupted for 16 points and four 3-point baskets in the win.
Lebanon boys win ugly, happily: Sometimes the ugly wins are the most beautiful ones. Case in point is the Lebanon High boys' 45-37 win over Mechanicsburg on Wednesday night.
Not only did it serve as the Cedars' ninth straight win, the triumph also came in the type of physical, low-scoring affair that can test a team's character and competitiveness. This just in: Lebanon passed that test with flying colors, and drew praise from both its own head coach, Tim Speraw, and Mechanicsburg boss Bob Strickler in the process.
"I really felt like if we could guard them, that we'd beat them," Strickler told correspondent Geoff Morrow. "Because I didn't think they were tough enough defensively from what I had seen, and they showed guts tonight. They showed that they deserve to be 9-1. That's a good, quality basketball team."
Role players step up for Crest boys: As great as he is, and he is great, the Cedar Crest boys won't get to where they want to go if do-everything senior guard Evan Horn has to, well, do everything.
At the Falcons' recent holiday tourney, Horn did not have to do everything. Buoyed by step-up efforts from the likes of Cole Laney, Blake Thomson, Iziah Trimble and Kobe Bolanos, among others, Crest captured its fourth straight holiday title with a pair of impressive wins over Conrad Weiser and Camp Hill.
Now 8-2, Cedar Crest appears to be getting closer to finding its best form after a pair of disheartening losses to McCaskey and Central York on back-to-back nights a few weeks back. If the Falcons continue to get the balanced efforts that were produced over the holidays, expect that trend to continue.