The final score was embarrassing, yes. It would have been to any group of competitors on the wrong side of a 55-21 loss to their arch rival.

But their was no need at all for the Lebanon High girls basketball team to be ashamed of the effort it put into Monday's predictably lopsided 34-point loss to neighboring Cedar Crest.

Despite being overmatched in every possible way against the now 11-0 Falcons, winless Lebanon played with passion and pride, something it's done throughout an already difficult season that is only halfway over.

This is varsity high school basketball, so there are no medals for trying, no participation trophies to ease the sting, and that's the way it should be. But by showing up and competing to the best of their ability every night and as much as possible, head coach Jaime Walborn's club hopes to set the tone for better days ahead, whenever they might arrive.

"I thought we played tough," Walborn said of Monday night's effort. "I thought that we were physical, and that was our goal going into the game. I told them at the beginning of the game, 'We have nothing to lose.' We just go out and do what we do every night and hope that we get better. We're getting better, it's just a slow process."

In a way, the Cedars did get better Monday. They scored the game's first points - on an Ary'Anna Ortolaza 3-pointer 1:03 into the first quarter - and thanks to some pesky defense, didn't surrender that lead until Ariel Jones (game-high 20 points) sliced to the hoop for two with 2:45 left in the first for a 5-3 lead.

But not surprisingly, the contest didn't remain competitive for long. With Jones and Alyssa Austin (10 points) leading the way, Cedar Crest opened up a 29-11 lead by halftime lead and steadily increased it as the game went on, while emptying its bench along the way.

But Lebanon kept sticking its collective nose in there for loose balls and rebounds even as the game continued to slip away.

"I thought offensively we could have took it to them a little more," said Walborn, who joked she thought about holding the ball on offense after Ortolaza's early 3. "But we were a little hesitant. But you know, they're big and that sort of mentally messed with us because they had some blocked shots. We weren't taking open shots when we had them and weren't being very aggressive offensively."

Still, the Cedars, led by Destiny Infante's 9 points, looked to make the correct play most of the night, tried to get the ball to the right spot, even if it wasn't always fully capable of doing so.

That counts as progress these days, as the team looks for smaller victories until it can grab some real ones.

"We celebrate those little things, and I think they do focus on that," Walborn said. "The things we're doing in practice, you can see it in the games. They're doing the things we're teaching them, it's just a matter of making it a habit. "

And that progress, however slow, is moving the Cedars back in the direction toward becoming a successful program again, something it was as recently as two seasons ago when they won the Section 2 title under then head coach Ben Brewer.

"I told them, 'Your legacy might not be to win the section, but your legacy is that we're basically building it up and you guys are the start of that," Walborn said. "Your legacy is you're gonna be the start of going forward."

Cedar Crest 55, Lebanon 21

Lebanon (21)

Infante 2 4-6 9,  Sanders 0 2-2 2, Ortolaza 3 0-2 7, Duefel 0 1-2 1, Roth 0 0-0 0, Yorty 1 0-2 2, Bowman 0 0-0 0, Zechman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 6 7-14 21

Cedar Crest (55)

Jones 7 4-6 20, Donmoyer 2 0-0 5, Witherite 1 0-0 2, Morgan 1 0-0 2, Austin 4 2-2 10, Rolon 1 0-0 2, Guth 0 0-0 0, Bucher 2 2-2 8, Rambler 0 0-0 0, Woelfling 2 2-2 6, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Kline 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 10-12 55

Lebanon 3 8 3 7 - 21

Cedar Crest 11 18 14 12 -55

3-point field goals: CC - Bucher 2, Jones 2, Donmoyer, L - Infante, Ortolaza.

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