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At the start of the season, the Lebanon Catholic girls basketball had only one goal in mind – defend its district title. To this point, the title is in rock solid hands. The Beavers finished the regular season with a 17-6 record, earning the No. 1 seed in the District 3 Class A playoffs and a first-round bye.

And the chance to repeat as district champs remains very much alive, as the Beavers started this year’s district playoff run in full throttle and cruised to a 44-32 win over Greenwood, forcing 26 Wildcats turnovers in the win.

“We’re a defensive team, that’s what we’re good at. I know I like defense,” said Neesha Pierre, who led all scorers with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight steals in the Beavers’ win. “That’s where we’re stronger, and we know that. So we make sure we play defense.”

Jayden Shellehamer also led Lebanon Catholic with nine points, while Allison Warren finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals.

Greenwood came in with a lot of momentum, off their 43-17 win over Dayspring Christian in the first round of the district tournament. On Saturday, however, any sight of offensive rhythm was not to be found, as it committed 14 first-half turnovers. Most of those were a result of not being able to solve Lebanon Catholic’s 2-2-1 full-court press.

“We got some things off of that, and we had a nice lead at that point. We come out fast a lot. It’s kind of been our M.O. lately,” Beavers coach Patti Hower said. “I think it really did put them out of sorts in the first half.”

Lebanon Catholic turned its lockdown defense into a 15-0 start in the first quarter and led 22-3 after one. The only Wildcats bucket was a 3 from Mackenzie Drew with 1:44 left in the quarter. That would be Drew’s only bucket of the game.

Greenwood, to its credit, finally started finding some offensive rhythm and fought hard until the end, getting back within as close as 11 late in the fourth quarter. Both the second and third quarters were even at 6-6 and 10-10, respectively. The Wildcats also outscored the Beavers 13-6 in the final quarter.

“We probably relaxed a little too much and lost our intensity a little bit,” Hower said. “We lost a little bit of our momentum getting into foul trouble as well.”

Anna Weger was a big reason why, leading the Wildcats 15 points in the loss, all coming from beyond the arc on five 3s.

“That was a problem, and they came back because of their 3-pointers,” Pierre said. “We knew we needed to stop they’re 3-pointers.”

Nikki Willi and Mallory Fortenbaugh also had big nights on the glass, collecting 14 and 13 rebounds, respectively. Fortenbaugh also had four points on the night, while Willi had two points.

Now the Beavers are set for a rematch of last year’s District 3 Class A final with Christian School of York in Tuesday’s semifinals at Cumberland Valley High School, just two wins away from defending their crown.

“They've got some nice players,” Hower said. “We’ll just talk about one game at a time. We have to make sure we get by that game first and then we can talk about playing in the district final.”

Lebanon Catholic 44, Greenwood 32 

Greenwood (32)

Madelyn Pyle 1 0-4 2, Mackenzie Drew 1 0-0 3, Anna Weger 5 0-1 15, Nikki Willi 1 0-0 2, Mallory Fortenbaugh 1 2-2 4, Jesse Sheaffer 1 0-0 2, Morgan Kauffman 1 2-4 4. Totals— 11 4-11 32.

Lebanon Catholic (44)

Mariah Sholly 1 3-9 5, Alaina Kline 1 0-0 2, Neesha Pierre 5 8-17 18, Allison Warren 2, 3-6 8, Jayden Shellehamer 4 1-2 9; Celine Mars 0 2-2 2. Totals— 13 17-36 44.

Greenwood _ 3 _ 6 _ 10 _ 13 _ — _ 32

Lebanon Catholic _ 22 _ 6 _ 10 _ 6 _ — _ 44

3-point goals— G 6 (Weger, 5; Drew), LC 1 (Warren).

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