ROSSMERE — The paint was anything but dry Friday night, and watching it was anything but boring.
While four different players crashed the glass for double-digit rebounds in Friday’s Lebanon Catholic at Lancaster Catholic girls’ basketball bout, it was Lancaster’s Kiki Jefferson who led all scorers with 29 points to send the Beavers home empty-handed in a 49-39 defeat in a battle for second place in L-L Section Three.
And although the Crusaders (16-4, 11-2 Section 3) upended Lebanon Catholic (14-6, 10-3) for the second time this season, the hundreds of fans packed into the Crusaders’ gym got the sense that both teams could be going places with league and district playoffs fast approaching.
“We both gave effort; they won,” said the Beavers’ Alexis Hill, who tallied nine points and 13 boards. “We’re not hanging our heads. We’re proud of ourselves and we’re just going to keep moving forward in the season.”
The teams combined for just one 3-pointer throughout the entire contest, coming off the fingertips of Jasmine Turner (8 points) with 3:07 to play in the third quarter before a pair of free throws from Celine Mars (team-high 14 points) helped the Beavers close to within 32-30 of the Crusaders.
But Jefferson closed the quarter with four points, including a steal and wide-open lay-in, for an eight-point lead the Crusaders never relinquished.
“I don’t take nothing from her,” Hill said of Jefferson. “She’s a good player and she has a lot more coming for her. It was a good match up with us.”
Indeed, the Beavers matched up on the glass as Neesha Pierre and Mars each finished with 10 rebounds, Lebanon Catholic rolling to a 35-24 rebounding advantage overall.
“I am pleased with our defense this entire season, but the defensive rebounding was pretty good (tonight),” Beavers coach Patti Hower said. “We know (rebounding) is something we have to do if we want to win big games.”
Yet there was no answer to what Jefferson was able to do offensively, as the recent 1,000-point scorer dished out assists early on, then rolled her way through the paint in isolation in the second half, not to mention grabbing her share of rebounds with a well-timed putback time and time again.
“We’re not going to play anybody like Kiki in districts or states,” Hower said. “Not that we stopped her, but it was kind of like pick your poison a little bit.”
Loss or no loss Friday night, Lebanon Catholic won’t be boxed out come playoff time.
The loss virtually assures Lebanon Catholic of a third-place finish in Section Three, meaning the Beavers will have to play next Thursday in the inaugural L-L play-in game for the right to play Section One champion Cedar Crest.
“Hopefully, this is the type (of game) we’re going to play in the playoffs,” Hower said of the atmosphere Friday night. “I think playing Northern Lebanon and Lancaster Catholic twice has definitely gotten us ready. We’re hoping to make a nice little run; we want to make sure we get that first one and maybe get a shot at Cedar Crest.”