Cocalico girls hold off Cedars

By on January 4, 2012

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor, Staff Writer

For the second time in as many games, the Cocalico girls were locked in a barnburner with Lebanon, a young scrappy team similar to themselves.

Last Thursday night in the consolation game of the Lebanon Holiday Tournament, the Lady Eagles gave up an early lead to the Cedars before putting together a big fourth quarter to win a hard-fought 44-36 decision.

Tuesday night in Section Two action in Denver, the young Cedars proved to be a tough out again. Cocalico held a slight lead for most of the second half, but couldn’t put away Lebanon.

In the end, it took the out-stretched arms of 5-10 junior center Kristen Boyer to save them as she blocked Brittany Ulrich’s putback attempt with 1.4 seconds left to secure an exciting 33-32 Lady Eagle victory.

"It was tough playing them twice within a couple of days," Cocalico Coach Tony DiMatteo said following Tuesday’s win. "They were scrappy tonight, and they were scrappy up there too. (On Thursday) we jumped on them early and they came back. I told the girls tonight that they were going to come in with nothing to lose and try to prove that (Thursday) was a fluke. And that’s what they did."

Cocalico (4-5 overall, 2-2 league) seemed in good shape leading 33-31 and leading scorer Marissa Gingrich (13 points) at the line with 26 seconds remaining. However, Gingrich missed the front end of the one-and-one and Lebanon’s Kiana Graves snatched the rebound.

The Cedars (1-7 overall, 1-4 league) set up with a chance to tie, and got that opportunity when Ulrich was fouled by Boyer on a drive to the basket with six seconds to go. Ulrich, who led the Cedars with nine points, swished the first free throw to cut it to one. She was off target on her second attempt but hustled in and got the rebound. However, on her putback attempt, Boyer was there to deny her with the block, and the Lady Eagles’ Natalie Sukanick ran down the rebound to salt this one away.

"I was like, ‘box out, don’t give them a second chance…,’" DiMatteo recalled of the final seconds. "We worked so hard on defense and we gave them the second chance…But hey, we got the ‘W,’ and that’s the bottom line."

Lebanon led 14-8 after one period and increased it to 17-8 on an Ulrich three at the 5:26 mark of the second quarter. However, Cocalico then went on a 12-2 run to the end of the quarter to take a 20-19 lead into the locker room. Gingrich, Boyer (6 points, 11 rebounds) and Sukanick (8 pts.) all scored four points apiece during that run.

Gingrich then opened the third with a three pointer to up the Cocalico lead to four points. However, nine turnovers in the period by Cocalico, which was playing without injured senior point guard Lauren Waskowicz, allowed Lebanon to keep it close.

"We threw the ball around and had too many turnovers," DiMatteo said. "We have to learn to control the ball, but we are young. We are getting better every game."

"Not having Lauren in there is part of it," he continued. "She’s a senior, she’s a leader and she’s our point guard. We do get her back tomorrow so that’s good news. But everybody just had to step up. Natalie played real well. She stepped in. We had a bunch of girls that hurt. We were thin JV and varsity. We were a little banged up but they played with heart."

Sadie Eisenhour free throws ended a 6-0 Lebanon spurt and gave the Cedars a 25-23 lead with 5:25 to go in the period before a pair of Sukanick jumpers sandwiched around a big three-point play by Gingrich put the Lady Eagles back in front, 30-26 heading to the fourth.

Points were hard to come by in the fourth, but a pair of buckets by Eisenhour knotted the game back up at 30-30 early in the period. A Gingrich free throw and a nice drive and lay-up by Taylor Esterly with 3:52 remaining put Cocalico back on top at 33-30, but the Cedars made it interesting with a foul shot by Shaila Shellhamer with 41 ticks to go set the stage for the fantastic finish.

"It’s growth," DiMatteo said of the victory. "I told the girls, ‘Grow from this tonight. You are playing at home in front of your fans,’ and we got a "W." Now let’s learn from it and see how we can do against E-town on Friday night."

Last Wednesday, Cocalico opened the Lebanon Tournament with a tough 47-32 loss to Lebanon Catholic. Leading 31-26 after three quarters, the Beavers put this one away out-scoring Cocalico, 16-6 down the stretch to take advance to the title game.

Gingrich had nine points to pace the Lady Eagles.

In Thursday’s eight-point victory over Lebanon in the consolation game, Gingrich scored a game-high 18 points while Esterly added nine to lead the team. More COCALICO GIRLS, page B-4

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