Lebanon teams chasing district title shots
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Tuesday night is shaping up as quite a memorable one for Lebanon County basketball teams and their fans.
How memorable? Well, not one, not two, not three, but four county squads will be in District 3 semifinal action, battling for the right to play for a championship later this week on the hallowed big floor of Giant Center.
Will all four get there? We'll have to see, but it should be fun finding out.
Here's a closer look at what's in store Tuesday night:
Lebanon boys vs. Hempfield
When, where: Giant Center, 6:30 p.m.
Seed, record: Lebanon, No. 3, 21-5; Hempfield No. 7, 18-8.
Breaking it down: The Cedars are flying high into this matchup after shaking off the disappointment of the Lancaster-Lebanon League title game loss to Lancaster Catholic and upending CD East 51-50 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
And they should be further boosted by the familiarity they have with their opponent, L-L Section One rival Hempfield. Lebanon split with the Black Knights, winning 65-51 at LHS on Jan. 10, and falling 50-47 in Landisville on Feb. 3, during the regular season.
The Cedars had little to play for in that second meeting, having already clinched the section title, so you can at least partially throw that result out.
Even if you don't want to do that, one still has to like the Cedars' chances here. The core group of Shaq Ortiz, Khalique Washington, Camryn Shaak, Luis Aquino-Rios and Dante Vargas has been hard-nosed and resilient all year, and faced with the opportunity to play for all the marbles should be more than ready to get the job done.
Obviously a great opportunity for Hempfield, too, but it's hard to pick against Lebanon earning a title shot against either Reading or Harrisburg on Saturday afternoon.
Cedar Crest girls vs. Central Dauphin
When, where: 5 p.m., Giant Center
Seed, record: Cedar Crest, No. 2, 26-0, Central Dauphin, No. 3, 20-3.
Breaking it down: The Falcons bring their unbeaten record into the semifinals at Giant Center for the third year in a row, and after two straight disappointments on the big stage are looking to get over the hump and reach the championship game.
Don't bet against them. Led by the formidable one-two punch of point guard Ariel Jones and center Alyssa Austin Cedar Crest is still undefeated for a reason. With emerging sophomore forward Raven Morgan, 3-point sniper Rachel Witherite and steady guard Gracen Donmoyer rounding out the starting five, the Falcons play with a quiet confidence and composure that has served them well all season. It's hard to rattle this group, not that many teams have even come close.
This one looks like Cedar Crest's biggest test to date, though, save for the Northern Lebanon matchup in the L-L semifinals. The Rams have lost just once since Dec. 19, own a win over top-seeded Cumberland Valley, and are battle-hardened by an always challenging Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division schedule.
Central Dauphin is led by senior and Kutztown recruit Alexis Smith, who averages 12.9 points and has knocked down 32 3-pointers. Sophomore Samantha Gress also averages double figures, so CD appears to have the firepower to match up with the Falcons.
It's not exactly a new flash, but the outcome figures to hinge on which team can get the defensive stops they need and/or handle the big stage of the Giant Center the best. Should be a good one.
Northern Lebanon girls vs. Lancaster Catholic
When, where: 8 p.m., Warwick High School
Seed, record: Northern Lebanon, No. 1, 23-2; Lancaster Catholic, No. 4, 20-5.
Breaking it down: Here we go again. This will be the seventh - yes, seventh - meeting between the two in the last two seasons and they're deadlocked at 3-3 after the first six. Catholic won the first three meetings last season, before Northern Lebanon got revenge in the state playoffs. The Vikings took the two matchups this season on their way to the Section 3 title, so this one is the rubber match in the two-year series of epic clashes.
Obviously, they know each other well, so neither is likely to surprise the other with anything in this one. Sophomore phenom Kiki Jefferson and junior Lauren Mills lead Catholic, while senior stalwarts Megan Brandt and Zoe Zerman are the Vikings' catalysts.
Those four could well cancel each other out in terms of production, so the outcome may hinge on which team's role players make the biggest impact.
Flip a coin and enjoy.
Lebanon Catholic girls vs. Linden Hall
When, where: 8 p.m., Lower Dauphin High School
Seed, record: Lebanon Catholic, No. 4, 18-7, Linden Hall, No. 1, 22-1.
Breaking it down: Forget the seeding, the Beavers have been the team to beat in this bracket before it was even unveiled. They've got the best player in dynamic junior forward Alexis Hill and the best coach in veteran boss Patti Hower, who's looking to guide the Beavers to their 19th district title. It's gonna be hard to deny Lebanon Catholic here, especially since it also beat Linden Hall earlier in the season, a 53-39 decision on Dec. 29.
That said, Linden Hall is no joke. The loss to the Beavers was its only one of the season, and it should be highly motivated for the rematch. Sophomore guard Anya Miller leads the top seeds and scored 17 in the loss to Catholic in December. The Beavers will have to slow her down to earn the trip to Giant Center.