LANDISVILLE — Coming out of the half with a twenty-point lead, Lancaster Catholic freshman Kiki Jefferson stole an inbounds pass and raced the length of the court for a break-away bucket.
That play, along with a plethora of others throughout the Crusaders’ 73-37 victory against Hempfield in the Lady Knights’ tip-off tournament final, exemplified what excites Crusaders’ head coach Charlie Detz the most.
“I’ve coached teams where you come out in the second half where you just play, you’re not really being aggressive,” Detz said after the win. “Both nights we came out after halftime with sizable leads, and we’ve extended them a little, and I think that talks about the character of this team.”
For the second-straight night, Jefferson was the offensive force with a game-high 24 points. The freshman forward also contributed double-digit rebounds and a cadre of steals as she proved she can carry-on the tradition of Catholic’s up-tempo defense.
“She’s a special talent, and I’m just really happy with the way the team has accepted her and how she really motivates the team,” Detz said. “It’s hard if you’re on the floor not to match the energy. You see Kiki out there rebounding in traffic, getting steals, putting put-backs back in on offense, you almost have to step-up, and I think she’s really bringing that level of intensity.”
Case in point, toward the end of the third quarter in which Hempfield’s Julianna Clark tallied seven points to help her team stay in it, senior center Caroline Scarff (nine points) took a feed inside from Jefferson for a lay-in, before promptly stealing the inbounds pass, getting fouled, and draining a pair of free throws to extend Catholic’s lead to 58-30 after three quarters of play.
“They’re a very good basketball team, and they showed you why tonight,” Hempfield head coach Brian Rife said. “They can beat you from the outside, they can beat you from the inside. They press you, they can score in transition, they can score in the half-court, and they’re defending very well.”
Clark paced Hempfield with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. But she was nearly matched on the other end by the Crusaders’ sophomore Lauren Mills (16 points), who Detz credited with “figuring a bigger responsibility this season” after she was the super-freshman for Catholic a year ago.
“We lost three starters (from) last year so we were confident but we still weren’t sure what we were going to do,” Detz said. “The thing I’m most proud of is the effort and the defense. Defensively, we’re way ahead of being two games in; pretty excited about that.”
Also young, but perhaps a little more raw, Hempfield never backed away despite being down 41-21 at halftime.
“I was hoping we could just chip away maybe, get it down to about ten going to the fourth quarter but they didn’t allow us to do that,” Rife said. “They played great, but our kids played hard to the end so I was very pleased with that.”
The key now for both teams is to gear up for the rest of the season. While Rife looks for his players to learn from playing teams like Catholic, Detz knows his team will have to improve, as well.
“They (the players) told me they didn’t win this tournament the last three years,” Detz said. “Some of the girls are seniors now, and they didn’t win it at all so they’re excited, but … the team I have, they’ll come back ready to work, and we’ll have to get better to get to where we want to go.”
Lancaster Catholic 73, Hempfield 37
Lancaster Catholic (73)
K. Jefferson 9 6-7 24, L. Mills 5 4-4 16, J. Breit 5 1-3 11, C. Scarff 4 1-3 9, A. Schreder 2 0-0 5, M. Hackman 2 0-0 4, C. Rivera 1 2-2 4, H. Ramos 0 0-0 0. Total — 28 14-19 73.
J. Clark 7 0-0 17, T. Sumrall 1 2-4 5, P. Diminick 1 2-2 5, A. Pauzer 1 2-2 4, K. Givler 1 0-0 2, S. Helgeson 1 0-0 2, K. Martinez 0 2-3 2, A. Williams 0 0-0 0, N. Richards 0 0-0 0, M. Durkota 0 0-0 0, M. Grube 0 0-0 0. Total — 12 8-13 37.
Catholic _ 21 _ 20 _ 17 _ 15 _ — _ 73
Hempfield _ 12 _ 09 _ 09 _ 07 _ — _ 37
3-point goals — LC 3 (L. Mills 2, A. Schreder 1); HM 5 (J. Clark 3, T. Sumrall 1, P. Diminick 1)
Consolation — Lampeter-Strasburg 50, Dallastown 43