Every year during the quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s, many will often look back and reflect on the year that was, hoping that the upcoming year on the horizon will serve as the best one yet to date. For the Lebanon Catholic Beavers, that same promise of optimism and good fortune likely cannot come soon enough as they look ahead to 2018, putting an unforgiving 2017 calendar year behind them.
After the long and winding road of L-L Section 3 Boys Basketball concluded last February, it saw the Beavers come up short in all of their Section 3 contests albeit while playing with unquestionably the shortest-hand in the entire Lancaster Lebanon League. And up until Friday night’s opening round game of the Mount Calvary Holiday Tournament, this year’s edition of Lebanon Catholic Boys Basketball entered the evening with just two overall wins, none of which had come against fellow Section 3 opponents. Yet to be fair, the Beavers’ overall win total could have very well been higher had it not been for a small handful of unintended cancelations with early season opponents, creating another set of unforeseen circumstances placed upon a Beaver program that had unfortunately fallen on hard times of late.
But all was not lost for the school on Chestnut Street in downtown Lebanon during 2017. This past summer saw the arrival of new head coach Wee Sanchez. A young and energetic head coach eager to take his shot in leading the Beaver bench who brings with him a renewed sense of energy, enthusiasm, and pride to a Lebanon Catholic program hungry to return to the same sort of successes enjoyed just five short years ago when the Beavers were crowned district champions.
And while programs are never rebuilt overnight, each and every game on the schedule presents an opportunity to grow, learn, and help lay the blueprint for years to come. For Lebanon Catholic on Friday night, that meant loading up the bus and heading to E-Town to meet up with Faith Christian of Martinsburg, West Virginia in the penultimate game of 2017 for a Beaver squad looking to spring forward into 2018 on a high note.
Despite the fact that Faith Christian would break the scoring seal to begin the contest, Lebanon Catholic went on to respond with a vengeance. After spotting the opening deuce to the out of state Falcons, the Beavers went on to post a 9-0 run that concluded with Devin Root triple which put Lebanon Catholic up 9-2, leading to a Faith Christian timeout with 4:31 to go in the opening quarter.
Seemingly right on cue, the Falcons were able to reap the benefits of their early timeout as Faith Christian stormed back to get within two of the Beavers as a Dontrez Yates trifecta made it an 11-9 ballgame with three minutes left in the opening quarter.
But Lebanon Catholic would be able to expand their lead as the first quarter chugged along as a quick 4-0 run saw the Beavers up by a half dozen at 15-9. As it would turn out, that run would prove to be all the difference when the dust from the first quarter finally settled as a 5-0 response authored by Faith Christian ensued, bringing the first quarter to a close with Lebanon Catholic in front 15-14.
Unfortunately for the Beaver faithful, the stoppage in between quarters did nothing to cool off the hot-shooting Falcons. With Lebanon Catholic sitting back in a zone, Faith Christian was able to exploit it as triples knocked home by sophomore sensation Telryn Villa and Isaiah Battle saw Faith Christian go back in front 22-17 after just two minutes had expired off the second quarter clock.
With the game now sitting at a critical juncture, the Beavers were faced with a fight or flight situation. In year’s past, an early salvo such as the one put together by Faith Christian early in the second period which put the Beavers in an early hole may have spelled doom for Lebanon Catholic’s comeback chances. But this is a different team and not to mention much improved Beaver squad this season, both on the court and between the ears. One that takes after the fighting, never say die attitude displayed by their first year head coach. And sure enough, the Beavers came roaring back.
Ignited by a bucket inside by junior big man Andrew McCafferty coupled with a baseline drive by the diminutive but tough as nails Hummy Valerio, the Beavers had crept back to within a point of Faith Christian at 22-21.
Over the course of the next few possessions however, the Falcons were able to see the Lebanon Catholic flurry and match it with a run of their own that was capped off by a 3 ball popped home by Telryn Villa which put Faith Christian back in front by five at 28-23 with half the quarter left to play.
But yet again, Lebanon Catholic’s fighting spirit continued to shine through as a hoop plus the harm by senior forward Nate Hatzfield, good for two of his 15 points on the evening, put the Beavers back within a point at 28-27.
That would turn out to be all the closer the Beavers would be able to get during the remainder of the first half however as a 6-0 Falcon run would ensue over the next few minutes, culminating with a bucket inside by Telryn Villa to help send Faith Christian into the break with the 34-29 advantage.
Coming out of the halftime recess, it was more of the same for Faith Christian. Big time buckets by Telryn Villa. When the curtain raised on the second half, Villa was there to fill the leading role with back to back deuces to start the half which put the Falcons up by a touchdown at 38-31. On the evening, Villa was handful all game long for Lebanon Catholic to match up with as he significantly hindered the Beavers’ chances for a win by pouring in a game-high 24 points.
But just as they had in the first half, Lebanon Catholic would be able to circle the wagons and come back with a blitzkrieg to get back within shouting distance of Faith Christian. After a trifecta was splashed home by junior Devin Root, accounting for three of his 15 point night, the Beavers were back within six at 40-34 with 5:45 to play in the third frame.
But for just as much as Lebanon Catholic kept scratching and clawing back each and every time they found themselves down in the first half, Faith Christian was always there to turn the Beavers away and gain some much-needed breathing room. A theme that would carry over into the second half as well.
Following the Root 3 ball, Faith Christian proceeded to rattle off a 7-2 run that ended in a, you guessed it, Telryn Villa lay in to put the Falcons up 47-36 before the quarter went on to expire with Faith Christian staying in front by double digits at 47-37.
With the game now delicately hanging in the balance, Lebanon Catholic turned to one of their unquestioned leaders in Hummy Valerio to help light a spark and possibly fuel a late-game Beaver charge. And to his credit, the 6’ senior guard did everything he could do to will his team back into it as back to back Valerio floaters in the lane cut the Falcon lead down to seven at 52-45 with 3:37 left to go. Fittingly, Valerio was able to lead the Beavers in scoring by posting a team-best 16 points on the night.
Scoring the ball is one thing, but putting your teammates in a position to be successful is quite another. Something that Valerio was able to do equally as well on Friday night. After the Lebanon Catholic starting point guard was able to lay off a sweet assist to Devin Root, the Beavers were now suddenly within five at 52-47, undoubtedly knocking Faith Christian back on their heels.
Things only grew more precarious for the Falcons from there as an NBA 3 dialed up by Root made it just a two point affair at 52-50 with now 2:30 showing on the game clock.
But just as they had all game long, Faith Christian had one last run up their sleeve. After a hoop plus the harm was put home by Falcon junior big man Cameron Daub, the Faith Christian lead had swelled to five at 55-50 with 1:40 left to go. And although Lebanon Catholic would get it back to within four following yet another Devin Root triple at 59-55, the Beavers would get no closer as Faith Christian went on to close things out for a hard-fought 60-55 triumph over a scrappy bunch of Beavers from Lebanon.
Although Lebanon Catholic had their sights set on a victory Friday night which would have put them in the championship game of this weekend’s Mount Calvary’s tournament, there are still things that first year head man Wee Sanchez can take with him both in the short and long term as he tries to help resurrect the Beaver program back to its rightful place, among those competing for section titles on an annual basis, with this group helping lay the foundation. “I told them in the locker room after the game that we didn’t give up,” the first year coach said of his team’s effort and resiliency. “That’s a positive. The kids could’ve folded being down ten in the fourth quarter. That’s something that we need to build on. We just need to get over the hump right now,” Sanchez went on to add. “We build from here and move on to tomorrow night.”
NEXT UP: With their win on Friday evening, Faith Christian will now look to take some hardware back with them when cross the West Virginia state line as the Falcons look to come away with the Mount Calvary Tournament title on Saturday night.
As Coach Sanchez mentioned after Friday night’s game, it’s time to get back to work. Work that will start with a Saturday evening game in the consolation round at Mount Calvary before the Beavers jump back into Section 3 play with a game against always-tough Lancaster Mennonite.
And even despite the fact that Lebanon Catholic came out on the short-end against Faith Christian, Coach Sanchez is starting to see the fruits of the Beavers’ labor help sharpen a mentally-tough ballclub, arguably the most important goal when trying to instill a new culture. “Although we didn’t get the W, I was happy with what I saw today,” Sanchez reiterated in the postgame Friday night with an optimistic view of things to come. But not before issuing a lasting challenge to his Beaver squad for anyone willing to answer the call the rest of the way. “They’re competing. We just need someone to man up here and see what we can do to get some W’s.”