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ANNVILLE - If Chris Bradford’s young squad entertains any hope of making the District 3 Class AA playoff field in a couple of weeks, the Little Dutchmen will need to tighten up the closing-out process.

Annville-Cleona steadily built a double-digit lead coming out of the halftime break Tuesday night against visiting Lebanon Catholic -- then nearly gave it all away before emerging 51-45 winners in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section 4 clash.

A-C (6-12, 4-8 L-L 4) turned a 17-12 halftime lead into a 36-20 bulge midway through the third quarter with its best sustained effort of the night, but needed some late free throws to fall to ward off a Lebanon Catholic rally down the stretch.

The Dutchmen sit in 11th place in the Class AA district field. While the effect of bagging a win against the struggling Class A Beavers is moderate, a loss would have been a crushing blow to their chances.

“You have to give (Lebanon Catholic) credit,” Bradford said. “There’s no quit in those guys. They’re in a tough way with their numbers and their win total this year, but they’re much more deserving of praise than they’re getting. They don’t let up.

“We’ve got to clean stuff up. We’ve got to scratch and claw and get as many wins as we can to fight our way into districts. We’re on the outside looking in. I don’t know what this will do for us, but any win can’t hurt.”

Rolling almost entirely with its starting five, the short-benched Beavers (2-15, 0-12) got it all the way down to 47-45 with a minute and change left before running out of fuel and clock. An 11-0 run, seemingly from nowhere in the final two minutes of the third quarter and spearheaded by guard Davian Perez, jump-started coach Scott Clentimack’s crew.

Once A-C pushed it to 36-20 on the back of its 19-4 run to open the third, complacency seemed to set in with plenty of time left. The Beavers nearly made them pay for it.

“We were careless with the basketball, and we can’t get ourselves into those situations,” Bradford said. “Once you build up that lead, guys who don’t have experience get a little comfortable. There can’t be any comfort. That’s as good an experience lesson for our guys and still come out on top. It could have just as easy gone the other way, and still been a lesson, but it would have been really tough to swallow.”

Clentimack acknowledged his team’s effort to claw back into the contest, but wished for 32 minutes worth of it.

“The effort was great and I told them that,” he said, “but maybe if we had that kind of effort from the beginning of the game maybe we wouldn’t have been down 16. We waited until it was desperate situation and then we decided to get after it a little bit.”

Perez was the best player on the floor Tuesday, banking 11 of his game-high 23 points during the third quarter. For a long while during the first half, he was the only Beaver to scratch the scorebook. Not until 2:45 remained in the second quarter, when Humberto Valerio nailed a jump shot, did any of Perez’s teammates score.

“Davian’s the one guy who can get his own shot,” Clentimack said. “I was surprised in the second half that A-C came out a little wider. First half, they were playing off him and wouldn’t let him get to the rim. That gave him some more opportunities. That’s what he’s capable of doing. He had a nice game.”

At the other end, Lebanon Catholic was tortured by A-C bigs Isaac Burris and Noah Myers. The duo heated up early in third quarter and provided the bulk of the scoring during their run. They combined for 26 points (Myers had 16) and applied the height advantage in the paint, holding the Beavers to a series of one-and-dones when the shots weren’t dropping.

“It was good to see the big guy (Burris) come out in the second half and get a couple of (baskets),” Bradford said. “Noah, he’s a very good inside-outside player. And defensively, that’s got to tough for the other team facing that every time down the floor.”

Annville-Cleona 51, Lebanon Catholic 45

Lebanon Catholic (45)

Luke Frattaroli 1 2-2 4, Nate Hatzfeld 3 0-1 6, Joe Gates 1 2-2 4, Andy Li 0 0-0 0, Davian Perez 9 3-5 23, Humberto Valerio 4 0-0 8. Totals 18 7-20 45.. Totals — 18 7-20 45.

Annville-Cleona (51)

​Cameron Hoch 3 1-2 7, Matt Light 1 2-4 4, Ryan Mathews 0 0-0 0, Donald Friday 2 1-1 5, Julian DyReyes-Kapp 3 3-4 9, Isaac Burris 5 0-0 10, Noah Myers 6 2-2 16. Totals — 20 9-13 51.

Leb. Cath._ 2_ 10_ 19_ 14 _ — _ 45

A-Cleona_ 6_ 11 _ 21_ 13 — _ 51

3-point goals — LC 2 (Perez 2),  A-C 2 (Myers 2).

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