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Emptying out the notebook as we head down the home stretch of the Lebanon County girls basketball regular season...
Falcons still perfect
With just four regular season games remaining, the Cedar Crest girls remain unbeaten and largely unchallenged at 18-0 overall and 11-0 in Section One. And as Jeff Reinhart of Lancaster Newspapers noted earlier this week, the Falcons stand alone as the only unbeaten team - boys or girls - in District 3. Uh, wow.
So what's next for the Falcons? Well, there is the matter of the Section One title, which it can clinch a tie for with a win at Hempfield on Tuesday night. Crest could also win the title outright on Tuesday with a win and a McCaskey loss to Warwick. It seems most likely, though, that, assuming a win at Hempfield Tuesday, the Falcons will have the opportunity to officially claim Section One at home vs. Penn Manor on Friday night.
After that, Cedar Crest will obviously be the team to beat in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs and figures to be the No. 2 seed when the District 3 6A playoffs open. In short, barring injuries the Falcons will have a lot of basketball to play in February and probably beyond. The devastating one-two punch of point guard Ariel Jones and center Alyssa Austin combined with a quality group of role players will make Cedar Crest an extremely tough out when postseason play rolls around.
Speaking of postseason play, three county teams - Cedar Crest, Northern Lebanon and Lebanon Catholic - are headed to the L-L playoffs, and a total of five would claim district playoff spots if the season ended today.
That would be Cedar Crest (6A), Palmyra (5A), Northern Lebanon (4A), Lebanon Catholic (1A) and New Covenant (1A). According to the latest batch of power rankings, Northern Lebanon would be the top seed in 4A, Cedar Crest the No. 2 seed in 6A, Lebanon Catholic the No. 4 seed in 1A, Palmyra 12th in 5A and New Covenant would hold down the 10th and final spot in 1A.
Getting back to the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, there could well be some all-Lebanon County matchups throughout the draw. Assuming Cedar Crest wins Section One it could match up with Lebanon Catholic and/or Northern Lebanon in the first round and the semifinals. The Section One champ gets the winner of a play-in game between Section Two third place and Section Three third place in the first round, and is in the same half of the draw as the Section 3 champ, which is still a three-team battle between NL, Lancaster Catholic and Lebanon Catholic for the top spot.
Either way, given all of that chances are excellent that a Lebanon County team will be playing for the L-L title on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Manheim Township.
Northern Lebanon, Lancaster Catholic set for rematch
It's become one of the best rivalries in District 3 in the last season and a half, and the Vikings and Crusaders will meet for the sixth time in that span on Tuesday in Fredericksburg. The teams met four times last season, with Catholic winning the first three meetings, including the L-L championship game, and NL gaining revenge with a memorable state playoff triumph.
Northern Lebanon (18-1, 10-1) won the first meeting this season, 49-35 in Lancaster on Jan. 6, and will enter the latest meeting locked in a first place tie with Lancaster Catholic and one game ahead of Lebanon Catholic. So obviously, there is quite a bit riding on Tuesday's matchup. A word of advice: get there early.
Hill coming of age at Lebanon Catholic
Her talent, athleticism and effort have always been undeniable, but now Lebanon Catholic junior forward Alexis Hill is beginning to add some polish to her already formidable game.That much was apparent on Friday night as Hill poured in 33 points in the Beavers' win over Lancaster Mennonite that gave head coach Patti Hower career win No. 700.
Given an inspired effort by Mennonite and foul trouble that sidelined point guard Neesha Pierre for much of the night, Catholic could have been in some trouble.But Hill wouldn't allow it, dominating at both ends of the floor and taking another big step in her on-court maturation process.
"Alexis was just...What can you say?" Hower said. "She's just amazing. She can rebound, she can shoot, she can dribble, and she plays with such intensity. And I think because she knew some of those starters were on the bench, she played even harder. She just did her thing.
"She's just so athletic, and she isn't even close to the tip of the iceberg with her ability. She's pretty raw yet, but she's working on it. It's nice, she's been very coachable.