CHS girls give L-S a battle
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
In a do-or-die situation, teams always talk about leaving everything they have out on the floor.
Cocalico found itself in that situation Tuesday night at Lampeter-Strasburg in the opening round of the District Three AAAA playoffs against the Pioneers.
In a rematch of a first round L-L League playoff game last Tuesday won by L-S, 53-42, Cocalico was determined make the Pioneers earn it this time with their seasons on the line.
And the Lady Eagles did, and then some. Sparked by the play of junior forward Marissa Gingrich, who scored a game-high 28 points (one off her season-high of 29 set back on Dec. 21 in a win over E-town), Cocalico nearly pulled off the upset.
But the seventh-seeded Pioneers, who lost to Lancaster Catholic in the L-L title game this past Saturday, had enough left in the end to outlast the Lady Eagles and advance in a 55-49 thriller.
L-S (23-2) hit a pair of threes in the final three minutes to hold off the Lady Eagles (18-7) and help them advance to Friday’s quarterfinals where they’ll face second-seeded Wilson (21-2), which moved on with a 43-33 win over Harrisburg Tuesday.
"I got everything I could get from them," Cocalico Coach Tony DiMatteo said of his team following the game. "They gave everything they had and that’s all I can ask. I’m extremely proud of them.
"They came out tonight and left everything out n the floor. It was amazing. Marissa was fantastic, but they all played hard. It was just a great season. I told them at the end, ‘take some time in the next few days and weeks and appreciate what you did, because that hard work paid off. I think the community, the school, the teachers…everybody appreciated coming out and watching them play. They were a great group of kids."
No one was greater than Gingrich, however. She shot 8-for-13 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from behind the three-point line, and was 7-for-7 from the foul line.
L-S never enjoyed more than a four-point lead through the first three quarters as Cocalico shot 15-for-29 (51.7 percent) from the field as a team. The problem for Cocalico was L-S shot 21-for-40 (52.5 percent).
The Pioneers took a 33-32 lead into the fourth, and eventually pushed it to 10 when senior forward Lexie Lantz, who led her team with 19 points, converted a putback off a teammate’s miss with 2:48 to play. Cocalico did cut it down to six on a Gingrich three with 11 seconds to play, but L-S managed to finally run out the clock and close out the Lady Eagles.
"They hit a couple threes in the fourth quarter and outscored us by five. That was the difference," DiMatteo said.
In ending the year, the second-year coach looked back on his team’s accomplishments this season. While they didn’t win a title, they did everything else and improved significantly from last year’s 8-14 campaign.
"Last year we took a big step turning things around, and this year I challenged them," DiMatteo said. "I said, ‘now we need to get to the next level. We got to make the playoffs. That’s our goal.’ And they did. It took a lot of hard work, and I think some of the girls realize now how actually hard it is to be that competitive. Every game, every practice you have to be really, really intense, and the girls did that."
Which leads us to next year when the Lady Eagles return all but three seniors (Taylor Esterly, Rebecca Grube and Kristen Boyer) to the mix from a roster that included 11 freshmen this year.
"It’s been a natural progression," DiMatteo said. "We play to win. Every game we come out and we want to win, and the girls are understanding that now. There is no, ‘we might win.’ No, the expectation next year when we step on the floor, whether it’s a summer league game or a scrimmage, we expect to win. Your goal is the section. We want to win the section and everything after that takes care of itself. But I think getting that attitude this year with 11 freshmen, they saw it every day. Our leadership was great. And they now understand that we are going to step on the floor and be competitive. I’m glad that we had all of those freshmen because now it becomes routine for them. That’s the expectation. Now we have the experience, we got the couple extra weeks of playoff experience and now wait till next year." More CHS GIRLS, page B-4