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Hill leads Lebanon Catholic into L-L quarters

Alexis Hill scored a game-high 22 points, including the 1,000th of her career, to help the Beavers edge Cocalico, 43-42 in an L-L tourney play-in game on Thursday.

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LITITZ - As most everyone knows, Lebanon Catholic is the smallest school in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.

As most everyone also knows, the school's girls basketball team has long been capable of mixing it up with - and beating - many of the L-L's larger schools.

On Thursday night, the Beavers did it again.

Led by 22 points from junior forward/birthday girl Alexis Hill, including the 1,000th of her career, Lebanon Catholic won a league playoff game for the second year in a row, besting Cocalico 43-42 in an L-L tourney play-in game at Warwick High School.

Now 17-6 and bound for Saturday night's quarterfinal round opposite unbeaten Cedar Crest, the Beavers appeared to be headed for a quick exit from leagues after a sluggish start turned into a 33-26 deficit midway through the third quarter.

But from there, Hill's heroics combined with some stellar team defense accompanied by a switch from zone to man-to-man pulled Catholic through, although victory wasn't secured until Hill grabbed a defensive rebound in traffic in the closing seconds to thwart Cocalico's final scoring chance.

"I think it's making a statement for our team, our school being the smallest school," said Catholic coach Patti Hower of the importance of a league playoff victory to her squad. "You always want to make a good showing. I think we have respect from the opposing teams in our league, but it's nice to kinda prove ourselves a little bit."

The Beavers certainly have one of the best players in the league in Hill, who popped in 15 of her points before intermission to keep Catholic in the fight. Her consistently boundless energy throughout also served as a catalyst for the win, as did 11 key points from teammate Celine Mars.

"It means a lot, Hill said. "We worked hard and now we're moving onto the next game, we're ready for Cedar Crest. We just had a slow start, but we got it after a while."

Thanks to six 3-pointers from Cocalico, which was led by 12 points from Maddie Bock, it took Catholic a good long while to make its mark on the contest. But after Samantha Klumpp knocked down the Eagles' sixth trey midway through the third for a 33-26 edge, Hower pulled the Beavers out of their game-long zone defense and into a man-to-man look.

The result was no more 3s for Cocalico and a 12-2 Catholic run that culminated with a Mars old school 3-point play and a 38-35 lead with 4:30 to go.

"Our adrenaline starts rushing when we get into man," Hill said. "I think zone slows us down, but we get through it."

The run also included Hill's 1,000th career point, which tied the contest at 35 and surprised the honoree, who claimed she didn't know she had reached the milestone.

"I didn't know that was for me," she said of the loud cheers from the Catholic faithful that accompanied the bucket. "I was running back on defense. I was just surprised. It feels good, but I didn't even know."

A thousand points or not, Hill's true value in Thursday's contest stemmed from her overall hustle and intensity, which simply couldn't be matched by a very gritty Cocalico team.

The Eagles certainly tried, though, twice tying the game in the closing minutes and also taking a 42-41 lead on a Lyndsay Engle free throw with 1:19 left. But Mars followed with two free throws of her own 13 seconds later to put Catholic ahead to stay.

"She really wanted this game, I think," Hower said of Hill. "When we had that last timeout, we were up one and they had the ball with seven seconds left, she said, 'Play good defense. If they shoot it up, I'm getting the rebound,' And she ended up with the rebound. That's how she plays. She can do it."

"I'm really happy for our kids. They didn't quit, they battled back."

Lebanon Catholic 43, Cocalico 42

Lebanon Catholic (43)

Hill 10 2-3 22, Pierre 1 2-6 4, Turner 1 0-0 2, Mars 4 3-5 11, Shellehamer 1 0-0 2, Callihan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 7-14 43.

Cocalico (42)

Engle 1 5-6 7, Fassnacht 3 3-4 11, Klumpp 3 0-2 8, Bock 5 0-0 12, Heck 0 0-2 0, White 2 0-0 4 Haldeman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 10-17 42.

Lebanon Catholic 5 19 7 12 - 43

Cocalico 8 14 13 7 - 42

3-pointers: LC - None. C- Fassnacht 2, Bock 2, Klumpp 2.