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It’s already been a thrilling L-L girls’ hoops season, and a few teams who have made their mark within section play are looking for some additional hardware. Three of the eight entrants in this year’s L-L League Tournament are newcomers, hoping to challenge the only league unbeaten, Lancaster Catholic, and reigning league champion Cedar Crest.

The following breakdown offers a closer look at Monday’s quarterfinals, as well as the tournament as a whole.

MATCHUP: Cocalico (Section Three runner-up) at Cedar Crest (Section One Champion), 7 p.m.

Cedar Crest Falcons (19-2 overall, 15-1 L-L)

2015 Tournament: L-L Champion (defeated Lancaster Catholic, 68-62, in Quarterfinals; defeated Cocalico, 47-33, in Semis; defeated McCaskey, 58-49, in League Final)

Why they’ll win Monday:

The ol’ one-two punch. Juniors Ariel Jones (17.9 ppg, 24 3’s) and Alyssa Austin (17.3, 10 3’s) are the premier duo in the L-L, having accounted for nearly 63 percent of their team’s scoring this season. In addition to Jones and Austin, coach Jim Donmoyer’s Falcons have four other players who have hit double-digit 3-pointers this season.

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Yes, having won last year’s title puts the proverbial target on their backs, but the Falcons are battle-tested this season in a tough Section One. Their only league blemish is to Section One runner-up Township back in December, by one point. Their other loss? Also by a single point, to Lower Dauphin last Saturday.

Cocalico Lady Eagles (18-4 overall, 13-3 L-L)

2015 Tournament: defeated Lebanon, 40-39, in Quarterfinals; lost to Cedar Crest, 47-33, in Semis

Why they’ll win Monday:

Team balance. While multi-threat senior Emily White (16.8 ppg, 20 3’s) led the Eagles in scoring this season by a wide margin, Cocalico’s “Carolina” offense creates opportunities to score for any player on the court on any given possession. The Eagles also possess the size and athleticism to handle Cedar Crest’s big two.

“We’ll have some time to prepare for them,” Eagles’ head coach Tony DiMatteo said on facing the Falcons for the second straight year. “We know them, they know us. A great coached team, two really good players. We’ll be ready and hopefully we’ll give them a game up there.”

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Senior leadership. White, center Megan Gingrich, and point guard Jasa Lorah all played big minutes in last year’s playoffs, as did juniors Emily Fassnacht and Lyndsay Engle.

“We played them last year and got some experience,” DiMatteo said. “We beat Lebanon in the playoffs last year, so I think the ‘awe’ is over and now we’ll come out and we’ll play.”

MATCHUP: Elizabethtown (Section Two runner-up) at Lancaster Catholic (Section Four Champion), 7 p.m.

Lancaster Catholic Crusaders (21-1 overall, 16-0 L-L)

2015 Tournament: Lost to Cedar Crest, 68-62, in Quarterfinals

Why they’ll win Monday:

Hard work pays off. The Crusaders own a point differential of 37 points per game this season, blowing-out their opponents more often than that NBA team from Golden State. Freshman Kiki Jefferson (21.4 ppg) turned an already dynamic team—featuring sophomore Lauren Mills (11.2, 19 3’s) and senior 1,000-point scorer Caroline Scarff (11.7)—into a juggernaut.

“We've been preparing six days a week for the last three months for the postseason,” Crusaders’ coach Charlie Detz said via email. “Now it is time for the girls to put that preparation into action.”

Why they’ll win the tournament:

This year’s bracket creates an opportunity for a semifinal rematch versus Cedar Crest. Catholic’s 28-point fourth-quarter nearly caught the Falcons in last year’s quarterfinal before succumbing by a mere six points, meaning the additions of Jefferson and the lingering memories of a one-and-done should give the Crusaders a mental edge.

Elizabethtown Lady Bears (12-10 overall, 10-6 L-L)

2015 Tournament: DNQ

Why they’ll win Monday:

Like Catholic, Elizabethtown is led in scoring by a freshman in slashing forward Marena Lonardi (11.3 ppg, 14 3’s) and features senior leader and 3-point bomber Rachel Sweger (27 3’s). Having suffered a five-point loss to Section Two champion Ephrata last Wednesday should provide enough ammo for John Myers’ crew to get after it versus Catholic.

Following the loss to Ephrata, Myers offered an indication of what the Bears are made of. “All it means is both teams have to take care of business,” said the coach, referring to how the rest of the season might play out. “You have to go play the game. Nothing is assumed.”

Why they’ll win the tournament:

In all honesty, this is probably the least likely scenario. But as the Lady Bears’ big-game experience increases, so too does the likelihood of a return trip next season, meaning there could be a more realistic title-shot looming on the horizon.

MATCHUP: Lebanon Catholic (Section Four runner-up) at Ephrata (Section Two Champion), 7 p.m.

Ephrata Mountaineers (13-9 overall, 11-5 L-L)

2015 Tournament: Lost to Donegal, 56-53, in Quarterfinals

Why they’ll win Monday:

Quick hitters. Offensively and defensively, the speedy backcourt of Caroline Stauffer (13.5 ppg, 38 3’s) and Kay Liebl (7.5), not to mention athletic post-player Kenzie Horst (11.4), are a nuisance for any opponent. Whether through steals and layups or ball-screens and bombs, head coach Mike Garman’s crew can find ways to score.

The Lady Mounts are also red-hot as owners of a seven-game winning streak that propelled them to the Section Two title. “I just had a lot of confidence in these kids,” Garman said following the victory over Etown. “I was concerned but not overly because my two seniors, my two co-captains, Kenzie and Kay, said this was a game we were going to win and I believed them.”

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Verve. Their backs against the wall halfway through the season, the players took it upon themselves to rally, something that can carry them through the L-L Tournament.

“It’s so hard to explain, it’s not something you can really coach,” said Garman about his players’ do or die mentality as they chased a section title. “It’s from within, it has to come from the kids, not from me. All the credit goes to them.”

Lebanon Catholic Beavers (15-5 overall, 11-5 L-L)

2015 Tournament: Lost to McCaskey, 67-46, in Quarterfinals

Why they’ll win Monday:

Team. Lone senior Allison Warren (13.4 ppg, 39 3’s) and sophomore Neesha Pierre (13.7 ppg) are proven scorers among a starting five that have all cracked the century mark in points this season for head coach Patti Hower.

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Nowhere in the L-L is there a better display of team-building and program-success than at Lebanon Catholic, a Single-A school where both the roster numbers and win totals speak for themselves. A favorite (and likely top-seed) in the District 3 Single-A bracket, the Beavers have shown plenty of ability to defeat larger schools, including a win over a possible semifinal opponent, Quad-A Manheim Township, back in December.

 

MATCHUP: Manheim Township (Section One runner-up) at Northern Lebanon (Section Three Champion), 7 p.m.

Northern Lebanon Vikings (21-1 overall, 15-1 L-L)

2015 Tournament: DNQ

Why they’ll win Monday:

Defense. Ken Battistelli’s Vikings have allowed the fewest points in the league this season, giving up just over 30 points per game. Meanwhile, the junior combination of Zoe Zerman (14.7 ppg, 17 3’s) and Megan Brandt (13.8) have taken turns pacing the offense all season long, accounting for 59 percent of the Vikings’ points.

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Heart. Trailing Lancaster Catholic in their only loss this season, the Vikings staged a second-half rally for the ages, eventually taking a lead midway through the fourth quarter before succumbing by a mere four points.

“We are not perfect, but we are everything I want in a basketball team,” Battistelli told the Lebanon Daily News’ Pat Huggins after the game. “I'm so proud of them, even though we lost. We had so many opportunities to stick a fork in us... Those little suckers, they never ever stop playing. Ever.”

Manheim Township Blue Streaks (15-7 overall, 13-3 Section One)

2015 Tournament: DNQ

Why they’ll win Monday:

Parallel Streaks. Township’s balanced offense boasts four players who have scored 200 points or more this season. Sean Burkhart’s team-oriented system features inside players Caitlyn Newcomer (11.4 ppg), Caitlin Hickey (9.9), and Megan Baldassarre (9.6) and a do-everything swing-player in sophomore Olivia Matto (11.4, 27 3’s).

“We’ve been getting contributions from every single kid every night,” Burkhart said of the difference in his team after an 0-4 start to the season. “You have five, six, seven kids all giving you good minutes, good production, how does another team match-up with that?”

Why they’ll win the tournament:

Following the aforementioned start to the season, the Blue Streaks have put together a consistent approach that has them back in the playoffs. Winners of L-L titles in both 2011 and 2014, this year’s squad has ushered in the return of the Township tradition.

“I told them right now, let’s not just be happy getting in,” Burkhart said after clinching an L-L berth in last week’s victory over McCaskey. “(Be) one of the eight teams trying to cut that net down again.”

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