Lebanon runs past Cocalico

By on January 8, 2014

Lebanon turned its first-place showdown with Cocalico into a track meet Monday night in Denver.

With Cocalico leading 16-10 after one quarter of play, the Cedars did what they do best which is run the court and score in transition, all at a frenetic pace.

It helped the visitors go on a 17-5 run to close out the first half and the Lady Eagles never recovered, fueling an impressive 54-47 Cedar victory.

Cocalico freshman Emily Fassnacht (center) tries to wrestle the ball away from Lebanon defenders Brittany Ulrich (23) and Lauren Chambers (back) during Monday’s game in Denver. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Cocalico freshman Emily Fassnacht (center) tries to wrestle the ball away from Lebanon defenders Brittany Ulrich (23) and Lauren Chambers (back) during Monday’s game in Denver. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Guards Brittany Ulrich, Lauren Chambers and Shaela Shellehamer quarterbacked the Cedars’ fast-paced attack, while 6-1 center Madison Rakow made her presence felt at both ends of the court before fouling out.

The Lady Eagles did make a run late, thanks to Rakow’s departure, getting the Lebanon lead down to three (48-45) with 1:27 to play. However, the Cedars got a big three-point play from Kiana Graves, and then put it away at the foul line in the final minute behind Shellehamer’s 3-for-4 effort.

“They spread out and their guards got things going to the hoop,” said Cocalico assistant Gretchen Hall, filling in for Coach Tony DiMatteo who missed the game while tending to a family matter. “Either they got a lay-up or they’d drive and dish…We definitely needed to adjust to that a little bit better than we did.”

“That’s our game,” Lebanon Coach Ben Brewer said of his squad’s effective style. “We sometimes struggle to score in the halfcourt, so that’s why we like to spread it out, and play the half-court like it’s a fastbreak.”

It not only keyed the win but broke a tie in the Section Two standings between the two teams, although Conestoga Valley remains deadlocked with the Cedars in first place as both clubs sport 4-2 records. Cocalico and Ephrata, which meet in Denver Wednesday night, are both one-game behind at 3-3 in the tight section race.

“That’s the benefit of having a veteran team,” Brewer said of his squad, which returns all of its starters from a year ago. “I got a lot of juniors and sophomores but they’ve been playing for awhile. Last year, we lost seven one or two point games…this year, we are winning them.”

It certainly didn’t look good for the visitors early as Cocalico had its way in the first eight minutes. Emily White fueled the Cocalico start, scoring seven of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter. Freshman guard Emily Fassnacht added a pair of three-point field goals while the Lady Eagle defense forced nine Lebanon turnovers.

After Megan Gingrich scored in transition off another Lebanon turnover to start the second, the Cedars settled down and got their run game going. Shellehamer, who led the way for Lebanon with 14 points on the night, scored five quick points to cut the deficit to 18-15 with 5:20 to go. After a White free throw, Chambers and Rakow then followed with lay-ups two minutes later to draw the Cedars even at 19-19.

Rakow shutdown the Lady Eagles at the other end over the next few minutes, forcing several outside shots, which they missed. The Cedars then closed the period out-scoring Cocalico 8-2 over the final 1:35. It was capped off by an Ulrich three with five seconds remaining to give Lebanon a 27-20 half-time lead.

“We stopped turning the ball over, and honestly at the other end, we started getting stops,” Brewer said of the turn-around. “We kind of packed it in a little bit defensively, played a little bit of a sinking man, and they weren’t able to get any real good looks inside.”

Hall agreed.

“I think them having a big post presence inside (Rakow) was frustrating for us,” she said. “We’d get the ball down at the other end of the court and look to drive but she did a good job. We got her fouled out in the end and we hoped we could finish the game off with her out of the game, but things didn’t work out.”

While the Lebanon lead never ballooned in the third, the Cedars were able to keep the Lady Eagles at arm’s length. Megan Gingrich did score six of her eight points in the quarter to lead Cocalico, but Chambers matched that effort with three big field goals- all in transition -to help the Cedars maintain a 40-35 lead heading to the fourth.

In addition to Lebanon’s running game, the other big story developing was its defense of Cocalico leading scorer Marissa Gingrich, who had just four points through three quarters.

“We started the game off with some length and then switched it up and put Brittany Ulrich on her,” Brewer said. “She’s just quick. I told her to just stay in front of (Gingrich). I told her, ‘if she takes you to the post, just use your speed and get around her. You have four teammates sitting there behind you because we are all sitting in the paint.’ I thought we did a great job on her.”

The Cocalico star senior would heat up in the fourth. She opened the period with a drive to cut the Cedar lead down to three. The Cedars would eventually go up by nine (47-38) midway through the fourth after a Shellehamer three, an Ulrich lay-up and a pair of free throws from Rakow. But a quick 5-0 Cocalico spurt that was punctuated by a Marissa Gingrich lay-up cut it back down to four (47-43) with 2:09 to go.

Rakow also committed her fifth foul during that stretch, and the Lady Eagles were poised to overtake Lebanon. Natalie Sukanick’s putback made it a three-point game with 1:27 to go, but that was as close as Cocalico could get as Lebanon, which knocked down 13 of its 18 shots from the foul line, put it away at the stripe.

Free throw shooting was a big key in this game. While the Cedars made the majority of theirs, Cocalico sank just 16 its 27 attempts.

“We were not good from the foul line,” Hall said. “They made a lot and we didn’t make ours.”

Marissa Gingrich did finish with 11 points to join White in double figures. Rakow and Ulrich both scored 12 for Lebanon in its big victory.

Up next, as stated above, Cocalico and Ephrata meet Wednesday in what figures to be a very critical game in the section standings.

In addition to Monday’s game, the Lady Eagles also were in action Saturday afternoon at CV where the Lady Eagles were very impressive in a 59-23 win over the Buckskins.

The Lady Eagles put it together from start to finish, racing out to a 19-6 lead after one period. They led 45-23 after three quarters of play before blanking the Bucks 14-0 in the final period for the easy win.

Marissa Gingrich and White both scored 19 points apiece to pace Cocalico.

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