The matchup discerning Lebanon County girls basketball fans have been waiting for is now at hand.

Hello, Cedar Crest-Northern Lebanon. Hello, 23-0 vs. 22-1.

On a likely Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff collision course for much of the season, the undefeated Falcons and once-beaten Vikings are now set for a potentially epic L-L semifinal on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Lebanon High.

Northern Lebanon did its part with a 53-31 first round win over Hempfield Saturday evening, while Cedar Crest assured its place in the matchup by fighting off a game Lebanon Catholic squad 63-54 in its L-L opener at the Falcon Cage.

Ariel Jones led the way for Cedar Crest, erupting for 21 of her 29 points in the second half to help hold off Catholic, led by 22 points from Alexis Hill.

The meeting between Crest and Catholic (17-7) was nothing to sneeze at, a hotly contested affair played in front of a mostly full house. But Tuesday should really be something else.

"Everybody was saying that was probably what it was gonna be, either in the semifinals or the finals," Cedar Crest coach Jim Donmoyer of the long-anticipated matchup with NL. "It's another in-county game, I'm sure there's gonna be a good crowd at Lebanon, I'm sure it's gonna be another good atmosphere. They took care of Hempfield pretty easy tonight, so I know they'll be ready. They're a good team, what 22-1? We're 23-0, so one loss between the two of us."

Ironically, Northern Lebanon's lone loss came to Lebanon Catholic back in December, and the Beavers took their best shot at slaying Cedar Crest on Saturday. But too much Jones, as well as 15 points from Alyssa Austin kept Catholic from adding that feather to its cap.

Beavers coach Patti Hower obviously was hoping her squad would be the first to knock off Cedar Crest off, but wouldn't be shocked if Section 3 rival Northern Lebanon pulls off the feat.

"I tell you what, I think Northern Lebanon has as good a shot as anybody. I'd say it's even," Hower said, when asked for her take on the matchup. "Northern Lebanon will play very, very, very in-your face defense. They have multiple people they can take on and off Jones. That might help them. It could go either way, but they'll be right there."

If the Vikings end up being able to slow Jones down they'll be the first to do so this season. After a so-so - for her - first half Jones simply took over the game after intermission, using her quickness to drive to the hoop at will and shred the Beavers defense.

It was a 29-16 Crest lead at the half, but the Beavers would pull to within 38-29 on two Hill free throws midway through the third quarter. But Jones would score Cedar Crest's next nine points to bump the lead back to 47-35 after three.

To its credit, Catholic refused to go away and got back to within 53-48 on a Hill bucket with 3:11 left. But again Jones answered with a drive for two and Crest would not be seriously threatened again.

"She's tough," Hower said of Jones. "She's so quick with her crossovers, and she doesn't miss on her finishes. She's got a nice soft touch on those, so you can't bank on her missing those. You have to keep her in front of you, and that's tough."

The Falcons in general are tough or someone would have beaten them by now. Not strictly a Jones-Austin show, the Falcons also got nice efforts from starters Raven Morgan (9 points), Rachel Witherite and Gracen Donmoyer on Saturday, as they have most of the season.

"They kept on coming at us and we came back at them," Donmoyer said. "It was two county teams and the place was packed. For a girls game. This wasn't a girl-boy doubleheader. The atmosphere, it was exciting. If we're looking to further this season and do some big things, it's gonna be in front of crowds."

Like the one that no doubt awaits on Tuesday night.

Cedar Crest 63, Lebanon Catholic 54

Lebanon Catholic (54)

Hill 8 6-7 22, Pierre 2 1-5 5, Turner 5 0-0 13, Mars 1 2-2 4, Shellehamer 1 0-0 3, Callihan 2 0-0 4, Kline 1 0-0 3. Totals: 20 9-14 54.

Cedar Crest (63)

Jones 11 5-7 29, Donmoyer 1 2-2 5, Witherite 2 0-1 5, Morgan 4 1-3 9, Austin 7 0-0 15, Rolon 0 0-0 0, Guth 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 8-13 63.

Lebanon Catholic 9 7 19 19 - 54

Cedar Crest 18 11 18 16 - 63

3-point field goals: LC - Turner 3, Shellehamer, Kline, CC - Jones 2, Donmoyer, Witherite, Austin.

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