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ANNVILLE — The shout resonating from inside the Annville-Cleona girls’ locker room was not that of anger. The shout neither lacked energy nor veracity; in short, the shout can only be described as having been whole-hearted.

After all, the single word the Annville players shouted following a 59-14 loss to state-ranked Lancaster Catholic — “team” — was particularly apropos. Because if it is possible to play the game of basketball with unyielding verve — and to, at times, frustrate the opponent in doing so — the Little Dutchgals did just that.

Trouble with the Crusaders’ signature defensive pressure to the tune of 17 first quarter turnovers helped to dig the hole. But every time A-C (3-3 overall, 0-3 Section Three) had the opportunity to do something well, the players didn’t hesitate.

“They do a great job of taking you out of what you try to do,” Annville coach Roger Hayes said. “So we just talked about poise and composure, being strong with the ball, and growing from the experience.”

Michaela Singer’s flawless 3-pointer 2:30 into the game came on Annville’s first attempt from the floor, cutting the Crusaders’ early lead to 6-3. A pair of steals from Singer contributed to eight first-half turnovers by the Crusaders (4-1, 3-0).

Lauren Schrader’s athletic layup high off the backboard broke a string of over eight scoreless minutes in the second quarter.

Morgan Zimmerman’s four first-half rebounds helped to provide the undersized Dutchgals a slight advantage on the boards at intermission. Zimmerman calmly went 3-of-4 at the foul line in the first half as well, finishing 4-of-6 for the game.

And while Catholic’s sophomore standout Kiki Jefferson was piling up a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds, it was Annville’s Chloe Inman and Harper Sellers who helped to limit the Crusaders’ usual prowess inside the paint.

“That was exactly the message at halftime; it was the message after the game,” Hayes said. “Those are the little things that we look to build upon. That’s an excellent team that we played and we’re going to grow from it.”

Although Annville would go scoreless in the third quarter, Lancaster Catholic did likewise for the opening 3:18 of the second half, forcing Crusaders’ coach Charlie Detz to take an atypical timeout in the process.

And when Singer, stationed patiently at the elbow, swished her second triple of the contest with 4:43 to play — cutting the deficit to 52-12 — it came to the cheers of her teammates and fans sitting throughout The Barn.

“There’s great camaraderie on the team,” Hayes said. “They’re all there to support each other; they have each other’s backs. Whether we win or lose, we’re there for each other.”

The saying goes that players win or lose as a team. Win or lose, Annville proved that they are going to be a team to reckon with throughout the season, something to carry the players through heading into next week’s Holiday Tournament, beginning Dec. 28 vs. Littlestown.

“We open up with Littlestown and then there’s Schuylkill Valley and Halifax,” Hayes said of the tournament. “We’re young. Looking to grow (and) not letting the pressure take us out of what we want to do. But we’re coming along.”

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