The District Three playoffs are when things start to get serious for Lebanon Catholic’s girls basketball team.
Sure, the Beavers compete hard in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League in the regular season. And when they earn a league playoff berth, they chase the title with great vigor.
But all of that is in preparation for Districts.
“It’s who we are,” according to coach Patti Hower.
The proof is in the impressive collection of district hardware Catholic has collected over the years; the Beavers have won two straight Class A championships and a record 18 overall, and Hower has compiled an impressive 705-359 record in her 39 years at the helm.
Friday night, Catholic opened its quest for another title with a home game against Christian School of York.
And if the result was any indication, the Beavers look primed for another run.
Led by a ferocious defensive effort in the first quarter, Catholic built an insurmountable lead and cruised to a 58-35 triumph over the fifth-seeded Crusaders. The win advances the fourth-seeded Beavers to the district semifinals and clinches them a berth in the upcoming PIAA playoffs.
Catholic (18-7) will face top-seeded Linden Hall in the district semifinals Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Lower Dauphin High School. Linden Hall knocked off Lancaster Country Day 57-42 Friday night.
The Beavers handed Linden Hall (22-1) its only loss of the season, a 53-39 decision on Dec. 29.
It’s safe to say Catholic can be considered a strong contender to win a third straight district title, even if they don’t get the tournament’s top billing.
“I think we have a pretty good squad,” said junior forward Alexis Hill, who led the way with 17 points. “I’m confident that we can make a run if we play our game.”
The Beavers put Friday’s game out of reach from the get-go, roaring to a 22-0 lead after one quarter. CSY was unable to get anything going offensively, managing to get off just two field goal attempts, both of which missed badly.
Meanwhile, Hill, starting her first career district playoff game, spearheaded a smothering defensive effort that led to a series of easy transition buckets off turnovers. She finished the first quarter with eight points and five steals.
“I love getting steals,” she said. “Sometimes maybe I go for them a little too much and pick up fouls, but that’s my game. I like scrambling.”
“She does a pretty good job of picking her spots,” said Hower of Hill, one of two transfers from Lebanon to join the Beavers this season. “She knows when to go after a steal, but if she gets a couple early fouls, she also knows when to back off.”
Hower was pleased with her team’s early focus. Catholic hammered CSY 62-12 in a regular-season meeting back in December, so one of the points of emphasis in her pre-game huddle was to make sure her team was on guard against overconfidence.
“We wanted to stress getting off to a quick start,” she said. “We wanted to come out focused. It was a great start. Our team defense was really good, and things just snowballed.”
CSY settled down a bit after the initial onslaught, but the game was essentially over. With most of Catholic’s starters taking a breather midway through the second quarter, the Crusaders rallied to cut the margin to 30-14 at the break.
But when the Beavers’ starting lineup returned for the second half, the lead swelled as high as 32 points before Hower sent out the reserves again.
Celine Mars added 12 points for Catholic, while Neesha Pierre had 10.
Kendis Butler paced CSY with 16 points.
Hill said her first district playoff game was a good experience.
“It was fun,” she said. “But I’m ready to move on. We hope to have a good, long run (in the playoffs), and I’m ready to go.”
NOTES: Hill was honored for eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for her career prior to the game. The milestone came during Catholic’s 43-42 victory over Cocalico in a L-L League play-in game on Feb. 9.
Lebanon Catholic 58, Christian School of York 35
Christian School of York: Laura Kruth 0 0-0 0; Hannah Martin 1 0-1 3; Nicole Shelton 0 0-0 0; Kendis Butler 6 1-4 16; Kathryn Larson 2 2-4 7; Bailey Stauffer 3 1-3 7; Bekah Tschopp 0 0-0 0; Shelly Zhu 0 0-0 0; Christine Carman 0 0-0 0; Mallory Towne 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 4-12 35.
Lebanon Catholic: Makenna Purcell 1 0-0 2; MiKayla Woodward 0 0-0 0; Hannah Callihan 3 0-0 6; Neesha Pierre 5 0-0 10; Alexis Hill 7 3-4 17; Jasmine Turner 4 0-5 9; Jayden Shellenberger 0 0-0 0; Celine Mars 4 4-8 12; Leah Pastal 0 2-2 2. Totals: 24 9-21 58.
Three-pointers: Butler 3, Larson, Martin, Turner. Fouled Out: None.