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LANCASTER – One side finished one step closer to a section title but disappointed in its overall performance.

The other side? Impressed by the effort, but now a section title defense is all but impossible.

So it goes in Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 4 boys’ basketball, as Lancaster Catholic edged host Lancaster Mennonite 55-54 Tuesday night at LMS along Lincoln Highway.

Joe Klazas’ Crusaders (10-7, 9-3), who swept the season series by a combined four points, moved that much closer to clinching a Section 4 crown. The lead is three games over Geoff Groff’s second-place Blazers (7-10, 6-6) with four league games remaining.

Through three quarters, the largest lead for either side was four points.

And while the Crusaders, behind reserve Danny Bomberger (team-high 14 points), thrice surged ahead by six points, they didn’t score over the final 3:20.

“He brought a great energy off the bench,” Catholic senior Thomas Gonzales (12 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals) said of Bomberger, a 6-3 junior. “He hit a 3, got some buckets, he got us talking, and he just brought the energy.”

Mennonite, led by Richie Rosas’ 16 points (all in the second half), sliced to within a point with 1:35 left. And the Blazers had the ball in the closing seconds.

But Rosas missed a pair of shots inside, and Kyle Kerr (11 points) was off target on a last-ditch 3-pointer from the wing before time ran out.

“I put a little bit too much on my shot,” Rosas said. “Just a little bit shorter, a little bit shorter.”

A high-energy and, at times, physical contest, neither side could wrest any significant momentum.

Mennonite led 12-9 after one, Catholic 27-25 at halftime, and Mennonite 41-39 into the fourth.

That’s when Bomberger sparked a game-changing eight-point surge.

First, he took a Mark Cannon pass and drained his second 3-pointer of the game. Then he sank a pair of free throws.

“Danny stepped in and hit some big shots for us, and we got ourselves into a better rhythm,” Klazas said. “I think when our confidence is a little higher, we defend better. Put those two together, and we had some successful possessions offensively and got some stops defensively.”

When teammate Jon Ware (four assists) drove the length of the court for a traditional three-point play – his only points – a minute later, the Cruaders enjoyed what was the largest lead of the game, 47-41.

The advantage was 55-50 after a pair of Gonzales free throws with 3:21 left, but Catholic wouldn’t score again.

Carter Hurst (nine points, four assists) fed Rosas for a bucket, and then Cody Hurst’s steal and bucket pulled the Blazers within a point (55-54) with 1:35 to go.

But that’s the way it would end.

“We’re not celebrating anything,” said Klazas, whose group shot 45 percent (21 of 47) and lost both the rebounding (36-33) and turnover (13-10) battles. Mennonite shot 35 percent (22 of 63).

“I wasn’t really all that pleased with our efforts. If we want to be a championship team, we definitely have to play better basketball, especially at this time of the year. We were fortunate to pull it off. Coach Groff’s team played extremely hard. I’ve always felt, for us to win a section title, we want to be the hardest-working team. We want to execute the best. We didn’t do that for the majority of the game. We escaped with a win, but it’s certainly something we have to learn from if we want to be successful down the road.”

With Rosas, Kerr and Carter Hurst leading the Blazers in scoring, Timmy Stefanosky played one of his best games inside. He matched a career high with eight points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and added three assists. Jon Gillespie added six points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

“We’ve been talking about improving our possessions on defense, improving our possessions on offense, making teams work for their stuff, and I felt like tonight we sustained some things on a more consistent level,” Groff said. “And the fact that we gave ourselves a chance at the end, we made some plays when we had to get some stops, so I feel good about that. I’m encouraged, and I see this hopefully as a step in the direction we want to get to.”

Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo

BOX SCORE

Lancaster Catholic 55, Lancaster Mennonite 54

LANCASTER CATHOLIC (55)

Jon Ware 1 1-1 3, Mark Cannon 2 0-0 6, Chad Wenger 2 0-0 4, Thomas Gonzales 5 2-2 12, Sean Landis 4 1-4 9, Bryan Downey 1 0-0 2, Dylan Atkinson 0 0-0 0, Andrew DeBord 0 3-4 3, Danny Bomberger 5 2-2 14, Shawn Henry 1 0-0 2, Kurt Harnish 0 0-0 0. Totals — 21 9-13 55.

LANCASTER MENNONITE (54)

Kyle Kerr 4 0-0 11, Carter Hurst 3 2-2 9, Cody Hurst 2 0-0 4, Jon Gillespie 3 0-0 6, Timmy Stefanosky 3 2-2 8, Ezra Buckwalter 0 0-0 0, Wadelo Erjabo 0 0-0 0, Richie Rosas 7 0-1 16, Nate Jean-Philipppe 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 4-5 54.

Lancaster Catholic _ 9 _ 18 _ 12 _ 16 _ — _ 55

Lancaster Mennonite _ 12 _ 13 _ 16 _ 13 _ — _ 54

3-point goals — LC 4 (Cannon 2, Bomberger 2); LM 6 (Kerr 3, Rosas 2, Ca.Hurst).

JV — Lancaster Catholic 45, Lancaster Mennonite 37.

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