Monday, January 22, 2018
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Lebanon Completes Comeback

Lebanon’s Alexis Hill toed the foul line at Ephrata Middle School Thursday night with 10 seconds on the clock and the Cedars deadlocked at 33 with host Ephrata on the scoreboard.

Through the sweat on her brow and the screeches raining down from the home crowd, Hill bucketed both free-throw attempts to give Lebanon the lead, one it held for a 36-33 victory and control of first place in the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s Section Two.

“I knew we had the ability to be here,” said Lebanon coach Ben Brewer of his team’s ascent into first place with three league games left on the schedule. “The way we’ve gotten here, with the wins that we’ve had, I’m pleasantly surprised.”

The Cedars (10-3 L-L, 13-5) trailed by as many as 11 throughout a physical, bruising game between teams that entered tied atop the section standings. Their late surge in the game yielded a 16-3 run over the game’s final 10 minutes.

“We had them the whole way,” Ephrata coach Mike Garman said, “and it slipped away.”

The Mountaineers (9-4, 12-6) took a 30-20 lead when Caroline Stauffer drove to the basket, drew a foul, scored a basket and converted the free throw to reach 13 points, a team-high total.

At the center of Lebanon’s comeback, Hill scored 10 points over the final 10 minutes, finishing with 14 points to lead all scorers to complement 10 rebounds.

“That was a team win,” Brewer said, “but at the offensive end, we realized Hill wanted the ball, and she was going to make it happen.”

When Hill stole the ball at mid-court and turned it into two points late in the third quarter, cutting Ephrata’s lead to six, Garman felt the momentum shift toward the other sideline.

“It just seemed like from that point on,” he said, “we didn’t play well.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon continued its comeback. Brittany Ulrich, limited to seven points, knocked down all four of her attempts from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Alicia Haitos, sidelined for part of the second half with a bloodied nose, followed up a missed shot with a rebound and a drive to cut Ephrata’s lead to 33-32 with 2:38 on the clock.

On defense, the Cedars held Ephrata’s Kelly Liebl and Kenzie Horst to a combined three second-half points after the duo posted 14 in the first.

“We just couldn’t seem to catch a break.” Garman said. “Couldn’t get a foul call. The little things. Sometimes you need them, and they just didn’t happen.”

The little things didn’t happen for Lebanon in the first half, one Brewer observed what he called his team’s least-smart basketball with the least hustle it had shown all season.

With his team trailing 21-13 at the break, Brewer still felt optimistic and refused to let his team out of the locker room until his players wore smiles on their faces.

“We needed that,” Brewer said. “We needed to have some positive energy and confidence in that second half.”