After falling behind by double-digits in the first half, Lancaster Catholic was able to rally and defeat Cedar Crest, 43-40 and advance to the 2016 L-L Girls Championship Game. John Buffone
LITITZ - Eleven points in a game of basketball can, at times, seem like a country mile.
On Wednesday night, 11 points was something of a leisurely stroll for Lancaster Catholic and Cedar Crest junior center Alyssa Austin.
Paced mostly by their defense, the Section Four champion Lancaster Catholic Crusaders erased an early deficit to upend Section One champion Cedar Crest, 43-40, in an L-L League tournament semifinal matchup at Warwick High School.
The victory by the Crusaders (23-1) spoiled the Falcons’ bid for back-to-back league titles, as well as Austin’s 1,000-point career milestone.
Coming into the contest 11 points shy of the career mark, Austin (16 points) sparked Cedar Crest (20-3) in the first quarter, in which the Falcons raced out to leads of 11-2 and 15-4, aided by a pair of long field goals by Gracen Donmoyer (5 points).
Cedar Crest eventually led 21-7 in the second quarter before Catholic’s pressure defense and some foul trouble by the Falcons closed the gap.
“Nothing was working for us,” Crusaders coach Charlie Detz said of the early deficit. “At 21-7, some teams are going to turn it in.”
Lancaster Catholic senior Caroline Scarff (8 points) drained a pair of jump shots to stem the tide, while freshman Kiki Jefferson (12 points) dropped seven points in the second quarter to narrow the Falcons’ lead to 21-19 at halftime.
“The second quarter we finally realized that we were playing Cedar Crest,” said Crusader senior Annaliese Schreder, whose seven fourth-quarter points rebuffed the Falcons late. “I think our intensity really came up from first to second quarter so I think that was a big change.”
Complicating matters were that both Cedar Crest junior stars Ariel Jones (7 points) and Austin were called for their third fouls in the momentum-altering quarter.
“They’re our two best players; if they’re on the bench we have problems,” Cedar Crest coach Jim Donmoyer said. “It’s all about inside-out. You don’t have that safety valve, so yeah, everybody’s role changed. I was just glad to have the lead at the half.”
Catholic took the lead at the 5:36 mark of the third quarter on a bucket from junior Julia Breit (8 points), coming 30 seconds after Austin’s milestone shot - a rebound and bucket off a Caitlynn Albright miss.
“I really wish she would have gotten it before now,” Donmoyer said of the milestone, regretting his decision to sit Austin with large leads during the season. “This point is stressful enough. To her credit, if she catches the ball in the block, it’s a basket. She’s been great the last two and half years. I’m happy for her, and all the kids congratulated her, I just wish it would have been sooner than this stage.”
Despite a pair of 3-pointers from Rachel Witherite (8 points) in the fourth, the Falcons never regained the lead. Schreder (9 points) stole a pass and scored on the other end for the Crusaders’ largest lead, 39-32, while Austin sat on the bench with four fouls.
Three steals by Albright (4 points) and a pair of Austin buckets narrowed Crest’s deficit, getting to within two points on Jones’ coast-to-coast runner with three seconds left.
But Jones’ half-court heave clanked off the backboard as the Crusaders celebrated joyously after the final buzzer.
“It is my senior year and I really wanted to win this tournament,” Schreder said. “We said if we can get past Cedar Crest we can get to the final, so that was our big mentality - we just had to survive and get through to the next round. We just wanted to win.”
Lancaster Catholic 43, Cedar Crest 30
Lancaster Catholic (43)
Kiki Jefferson 4 3-6 12, Caroline Scarff 3 4-4 10, Annaliese Schreder 4 0-0 9, Julia Breit 3 2-3 8, Lauren Mills 1 0-2 3, Corina Rivera 0 1-2 1, Lillian Fritz 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 10-17 43.
Cedar Crest (40)
Alyssa Austin 8 0-2 16, Rachel Witherite 3 0-0 8, Ariel Jones 3 1-2 7, Gracen Donmoyer 2 0-0 5, Caitlynn Albright 2 0-1 4, Kelsey Guth 0 0-1 0, Skyanne Yancey 0 0-0 0, Jade Rolon 0 0-0 0, Alaze Merkey 0 0-0 0, Raven Morgan 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 1-6 40.
Lanc. Catholic _ 7 _ 12 _ 11 _ 13 _ — _ 43
Cedar Crest _ 15 _ 6 _ 5 _ 12 _ — _ 40
3-point goals — LC 3 (Jefferson, Shreder, Mills); CC 3 (Witherite 2, Donmoyer).