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LANCASTER — Playing on back-to-back nights is never easy. Doing so with an eye toward the playoffs is something else entirely.

Using balanced team offense and stalwart defense, however, the Manheim Township girls’ basketball team blew-out the host McCaskey Red Tornado, 56-34, Thursday night in what was a battle for second place in Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One.

By virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker over McCaskey, the Blue Streaks (12-3 Section One, 13-7 overall) clinched a spot in the L-L playoffs one day after Section Champion Cedar Crest put a temporary damper on Township’s playoff endeavors.

“We had to focus on tonight’s game and kind of erase last night’s game,” said Township senior Caitlin Hickey, who pitched-in 11 points, including eight points in the decisive third quarter. “(Wednesday) was as tough loss, we just had to give everything we had and I think we played a really good team game.”

After an early timeout from head coach Sean Burkhart, Township was able to close the opening quarter on an 11-2 run for a ten-point cushion.

“I think calling that early timeout cleared the cobwebs of last night,” Burkhart said. “From that point on we’re trying to get the ball down low. One of our strengths this season has been getting it inside, getting to the foul line. I thought in the first half we did a good job doing that and then we were cashing in on them.”

A big part of that success was Caitlyn Newcomer’s nine-point first quarter, as Newcomer (game-high 16 points), Hickey, and sophomore Olivia Matto all hit early 3-pointers.

The second quarter saw Matto (15 points) tally seven-straight points, including a nifty reverse layup and end-to-end bucket, plus one, for a 24-14 lead.

Ten points from Briana Perry (11 points) in the second quarter helped McCaskey (11-4, 14-6) stay in the game, before the Tornado were held to just five points in the third quarter.

“We were just lucky in the third quarter, their shots weren’t falling, we were able to secure all those rebounds and we were getting good looks at the other end,” Burkhart said. “That’s one thing we talked about during the shoot-around today, work the ball around, get good possessions, look for good looks inside if we can. I’ll give the girls credit, they did that.”

Having led 31-20 at the half, Township opened the third on an 18-2 run, sure enough including another personal seven-point run, this time from Hickey inside.

“That’s what’s cool about this team,” Hickey said. “All year it’s been that way where one night you may not have a good game but a teammate will, and that’s what carries a team.”

Township slowed the pace in the third, seemingly scoring at will inside.

“The posts were setting great screens,” Hickey said. “They would set a screen on the wing and get a curl-cut right to the basket. Posts were posting up everywhere possible, just annihilating the boards. I think they had a lot of second chances and finishing at the foul line was huge.”

“They’re much more patient than my team,” agreed McCaskey head coach Brian McCloud on how Township had improved between the meetings versus the Tornado. “Talent doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to work together.”

Now that the Blue Streaks’ talent has come together, they get the opportunity to showcase it in the League playoffs, set to begin February 8.

“It is huge,” Hickey said, not understating her excitement. “Last year was kind of rough for us; I think it’s really important to us seniors to lead this team so everyone can get that experience.”

“I just told them right now, let’s not just be happy getting in now,” Burkhart said. “We have to finish strong to try to improve our district seeding a little bit. Come into the L-L League being one of the eight teams trying to cut that net down again.”

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Manheim Township 56, McCaskey 34

Manheim Township (56)

C. Newcomer 5 5-6 16, O. Matto 6 1-1 15, M. Baldassarre 3 6-8 12, C. Hickey 4 2-3 11, D. McKnight 0 1-2 1, E. Miller 0 1-3 1, L. Hinnenkamp 0 0-0 0, J. Ramsey 0 0-0 0, D. Kapur 0 0-0 0, M. Beitzel 0 0-0 0, A. Bryant 0 0-0 0, T. Evans 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-23 56.

McCaskey (34)

B. Perry 4 3-6 11, A. Parker 3 0-0 6, A. Cherry 2 0-0 4, S. Weller 2 0-0 4, J. Short 1 0-0 2, S. Kemmerer 1 0-0 2, P. Reid-White 1 0-0 2, B. Seal 0 0-0 0, P. Todd 0 0-0 0, A. Johnson 0 0-0 0, J. Richardson 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 4-8 34.

TWP _ 16 _ 15 _ 19 _ 06 _ — _ 56

JPM _ 06 _ 14 _ 05 _ 09 _ — _ 34

3-Point Goals — TWP 4 (Matto 2, Newcomer, Hickey), JPM 0

JV Score — Manheim Township 36, McCaskey 34

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