MYERSTOWN - The process of becoming an elite team isn't just about the development of talent and winning "big games".
It's also about things like winning the game after the big game and not taking a capable opponent lightly.
And so for the wildly promising Lebanon Catholic girls basketball team, Wednesday night's matchup with a feisty Elco team was every bit as important as Monday night's showdown win over Northern Lebanon.
For most of the night, the Beavers understood that. And now they fully do.
Fresh off the emotional victory over Northern Lebanon, Catholic fell behind by as many as seven points in the first half Wednesday, before righting the ship and eventually pulling away for a 62-46 win over the better-than-you-think Raiders at Elco High School.
Celine Mars dropped in 16 of her game-high 20 points before intermission, and Alexis Hill scored 16, including back-to-back transition buckets off her own stellar defense late in the first half that sent the Beavers on their way to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Section 3. Hannah Callihan also had a big night, coming off the bench to drop in 12 points and two 3-pointers.
"We talked about not having a letdown, but I thought we did a little bit," Lebanon Catholic coach Patti Hower said. "They came out hard and we expected that. It took us a while to get moving, but they have some nice young players with quickness. We talked about that, but to actually go through it and respond is a good sign."
The Beavers had no choice to respond after Elco (4-3, 1-2 Section 3) used a 9-2 run midway through the second quarter capped by a Taylor Bossert '3' to turn a 15-15 game into a 24-17 lead with 3:30 to go in the half.
Bossert finished with 10 points and Jalissa Nolt led Elco with 16 as Ashli Shay's injury-riddled club again outperformed expectations against a quality opponent.
"We kinda ran out of gas a little at the end," Shay said. "But once again I can't complain about the effort. It was there. It hurts not having a whole lot of depth, but it is what it is. We gotta adjust."
Had it not been for Hill's late first half heroics, Elco may well have gone into the half with a lead.
But Catholic finished with a flourish in the final minute after Hill blocked a 3-point shot and stormed in for a layup, then on the ensuing possession came up with a steal and went the length of the floor for another bucket. It was a dazzling display of both defense and athleticism from Hill, who has the rare ability to turn a game around at that end of the floor.
"That was the momentum swing that we needed,"Hower said of Hill's heroics. "We struggled up to that point. When someone on your team is playing like that it picks you up defensively and offensively. She definitely has a different gear and she turned it on those last two plays."
And the effects were long-lasting as Catholic used a 12-5 run to open the second half to build a double-digit lead that only occasionally dipped under 10 points the rest of the way.
"In these first six games we've been in a lot of different situations," Hower said, "and that's gonna help us down the road."
Lebanon Catholic 62, Elco 46
Lebanon Catholic (63)
Pierre 3 1-1 7, Hill 6 4-6 16, Turner 2 0-0 4, Shellehamer 1 1-2 3, Mars 7 6-8 20, Callihan 5 0-1 12, Kline 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 12-18 62.
Bossert 3 2-2 10, Sonnen 1 0-0 3, Rosengrant 3 3-7 9, Bidelspach 0 1-2 1, Nolt 7 2-4 16, Nelson 0 7-8 7. Totals: 14 15-23 46.
Lebanon Catholic 11 21 13 17 - 62
Elco 9 18 7 12 - 46
3-pointers: LC - Callihan 2, E: Bossert 2, Sonnen.