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Norlebco holds off MC girls
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
For the most part, the Manheim Central girls have played their opponents tough this winter.
The Lady Barons lost by just six points to both Columbia and Annville-Cleona.
They fell by only one point to Conestoga Valley.
Now, the young Central girls must find a way to get over the hump.
In their final game before the Christmas break last Friday night, Manheim Central got another opportunity to do that when it hosted Section Three contender Northern Lebanon. And although they trailed by as few as seven points with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter, the Lady Barons came up a little bit short to 6-foot-0 senior and Northern Lebanon by a score of 47-39 in a Section Three game in Manheim.
"We’re in all of our basketball games," said MC coach Dan Cotchen, whose squad fell to 0-4 in league play (1-7 overall). "I feel bad for them. We just can’t get over that hump. That’s a confidence thing. They haven’t experienced that confidence yet. When they do experience it, that may be the change that we’re looking for."
Lessing finished with a double-double, scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, to lead the way for the Lady Vikings, who improved to 3-1 in league play (5-2 overall), one game behind first-place Garden Spot and Lampeter-Strasburg.
"We don’t have anybody right now that we can take her 1-on-1," Cotchen said. "We’re a help defense kind of a team right now and we tried to double down on her, but she’s just strong and big and she can put it back and she knows how to play the low post real well."
Lessing scored seven of those points in the opening stanza, and her layup with 3:05 left in the first put Northern Lebanon in front, 13-4. While Lessing and Taylor Smith sparked the Lady Vikings to a 9-8 edge on the boards in the first – and a 39-35 advantage for the game – Manheim Central didn’t help itself by committing four of its 12 total turnovers and shooting 2-for-11 in the period.
"Certainly, I think anytime that you’ve got the Section favorite coming into your gym, when you turn the ball over early and you fall behind, that’s a hard hill to overcome," Cotchen said.
They began to climb that hill as senior Caroline Novak knocked down two foul shots late in the first, and then junior forward Sarah Painter drilled back-to-back buckets to open the second quarter, including a 3-pointer, to cut the Lady Vikings’ lead to 13-11 with 6:52 left in the half. Painter led the Lady Barons with 14 points and senior guard Kristin Robeson added double figures with 12 points. They were still within three after sophomore guard Olivia Novak hit a jumper with 1:38 to go, but Northern Lebanon’s Morgan Hollis hit a trey and Smith dropped in a layup to push the visitors’ lead to 25-17 going to the intermission.
Unfortunately for the Norlebco girls, guard Emily Brandt, who was averaging 17.0 ppg in their first three league games, went down with an injury late in the first half and didn’t return.
"We held Brandt to two points when she was in there, so I thought we did a good job on her," Cotchen remarked. "We asked our kids to make somebody else beat us and they went to the big girl (Lessing) and we just can’t match up with her."
Painter got the MC girls within five, 27-22, on a three-point play following a putback in the third quarter, and then Lessing’s three-point play with 1:47 to go in the period pushed Northern Lebanon’s lead to 36-25. But sophomore forward Danielle Ober drilled a triple for MC, and then after the Lady Vikings’ Mariah LiBrandi missed two foul shots, Painter sank a pull-up J to make it 36-30 going to the final stanza.
"I was proud of our girls," Cotchen said. "I thought they battled the whole time. I think we chipped it down to five there for a bit, but we’re not that deep. Our rotation isn’t real, real deep, so when we’re spending a lot of energy trying to get back in it, we get kind of tired sometimes on the defensive end. And they make a couple of baskets, and before you know it, the big girl has a couple and it’s pushed back to nine."
Robeson’s layup with 5:54 to go in the fourth cut it to 39-32, but Northern Lebanon answered with a 6-0 run, and Lessing’s deuce on the post with 3:42 remaining gave the Lady Vikings their biggest lead, 45-32. Robeson’s 3-pointer following a Norlebco turnover against Central’s press cut the Lady Barons’ deficit to 45-37 with 1:58 to go, but Manheim Central would get no closer.
"Like I tell them, it comes down to foul shots and layups," Cotchen said. "Layups is a metaphor for high-percentage shots. We just have to knock down our good high-percentage shots at a little better rate than what we’re doing. If we get a layup here and a layup there and that five-point deficit is three or four, that’s a little different. I tell them, ‘Look, we’re getting open looks. When all of our open looks fall, we’re going to have a good night.’ We’re just not there yet."
Last Wednesday, Dec. 19, the Lady Barons trailed by only two, 25-23, going to the fourth quarter, but host Annville-Cleona outscored them 12-8 over the final eight minutes to clinch a 37-31 win in a Section Three-Four crossover. Manheim Central was led by Ober, who scored 10 points in a losing cause. Alex Siebecker scored a game-high 13 points to lead three Annville-Cleona players in double figures. Elaina Wanamaker and Kayla Parks finished with 10 points apiece for the winners. More MC GIRLS, page B-4