Knights hold off late rally by MC in L-L quarters
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The numbers didn’t seem to add up for the Manheim Central girls on Monday night.
They had an eye-popping 21 turnovers and scored just one field goal through more than 12 minutes of the second half.
Yet, somehow, with no time left on the clock, the Section Three champion Lady Barons had an opportunity to pull even with Section One runner-up Hempfield in an L-L League quarter-final round playoff game.
But in a pressure-packed situation, and with Manheim Central senior Renee Wiegand waiting out a prolonged delay before stepping to the foul line, her first free throw rimmed out and the Black Knights held on for a 33-31 nail-biter in Manheim.
""Renee is our leader, Renee is our warrior," Central coach Tom McCabe said. "I wish she could have shot (the free throws) right away. I don’t know what the problem was. She’s our best free throw shooter and she wants the ball in crunch time and I love that about Renee … (But) it shouldn’t have come down to the two free throws."
Indeed, the Lady Barons’ turnovers, coupled with five putbacks by Hempfield, led to the Central girls finding themselves in an 18-6 deficit in the first half.
"You can’t control where the ball bounces, but again we stress the fundamentals, the basics," McCabe said. "I think they had five putbacks and that’s a third of their points on putbacks. But I’m proud of my girls."
While the Black Knights advanced to the L-L semi-finals held last night (Wednesday) against Lancaster Mennonite, a 69-66 winner over Solanco, the Lady Barons (15-8) began preparations for their District Three Triple-A first-round playoff game against sixth-seeded Susquehanna Township (18-4) next Wednesday, Feb. 22. The Manheim Central girls are seeded 11th.
"We’ll study," McCabe said. "We’ve got some time now. So we’re going to heal."
The Barons were having a good time early on against Hempfield on Monday, taking a 6-5 lead on a short jumper by Breanna Barber. But sophomore Sarah Helgeson scored four of her seven points in a 13-0 Black Knight run, capped by senior Lexi Scott’s layup with 5:01 left in the half which put Hempfield up 18-6.
No one scored in double figures for the Black Knights, who were led by senior Brianna Neal’s eight points.
"We got some nice scouting reports together and we wanted to stop Neal and we did," McCabe said. "They run most of their stuff for Neal. She’s a great player. They got a lot of nice penetrating drives. They found the right people."
Hempfield was also able to capitalize on Manheim Central committing 13 of its 21 turnovers in the first half.
"I don’t know how many turnovers we had tonight, but it was way too many," McCabe said. "Yes, we’re asking different people to be point guards at different times. You take away half of those turnovers, take away a couple of those putbacks, who knows? And I’m not taking anything away from Hempfield. They played their game."
Central, though, remained within reach by scoring the final six points of the half, as Wiegand and senior Taylor Stoltz went a combined 4-for-4 at the line, and then Wiegand’s deuce early in the third cut the Black Knights’ lead to 18-14. Wiegand led all scorers with 11 points.
But a putback by Hempfield’s Lauren Trower to end the third made it 23-16 and then Taylor Denlinger knocked down a ‘three’ top open the fourth as part of a 9-2 HHS run which put the Knights up 27-16 with 5:05 left.
Finally, Barber’s steal and fastbreak layup with 3:55 left in the game ended a Lady Barons scoring drought of 11:35 from the field.
"Hempfield plays great help-side defense. We weren’t getting our normal drives. We were asking for more screens in our no-post or our one-post and we weren’t necessarily getting them. Our spacing wasn’t always there. But, I’m going to give Hempfield credit. They played great defense. That’s going to keep them in basketball games."
The Black Knights still led 32-25 with 1:13 left and Central, using some press defense, got back-to-back jumpers by Stoltz, who finished with six points.
Meanwhile, Helgeson missed four straight foul shots and went 1-for-6 from the line in the final :45.1 And when Wiegand nailed a 10-footer, following a key offensive board from Barber, the Lady Barons were within one, 32-31, with :15.8 remaining.
Helgeson made made the second of two freebies with :5.4 left to make it a two-point game, and then at the other end, Wiegand drove and was fouled by Hempfield’s Neal with no time left. But it wasn’t meant to be for the Central girls.
"I’m glad we fought back as a team," McCabe said. "That’s two games in a row now we’ve fought back late … It was a fun atmosphere when we got back in it. It was nice. I’m really proud of my girls." More LADY BARONS, page B-6