Lebanon Catholic Makes Quick Work Of Susquenita As Beavers Top Blackhawks, Proceed On Playoff Hunt
Written by: Andy Herr on Friday, January 10th, 2020
As cliché and overused as the phrase may be, the fact of the matter is that each and every team does indeed have different narratives that shape and ultimately help define the overall success of their respective seasons. And when talking about Lancaster-Lebanon Boys’ Basketball most specifically, there is arguably no other ballclub that gives credence to that idiom more than the Lebanon Catholic Beavers.
It’s not often – rare to be perfectly blunt about it – when you see a team that has gone winless in conference play, coupled with a sub .500 overall record to boot once the calendar starts to approach mid-January, that can still rightly aspire to claim a playoff spot at the end of the regular season. Fair enough, but you probably weren’t thinking of Lebanon Catholic when assessing that statement were you?
While it is certainly a unique position in which to be placed, the Beavers did indeed find themselves in such a spot heading into their Thursday night home game against winless Susquenita. For the Beavers, while the fruits of their L-L labor have to pay off in any tangible dividends in terms of wins, the Beavers’ beefed-up league schedule in which Lebanon Catholic – a District 3-A school – plays against competition where all but one L-L League foe on their slate is a member of a higher classification, has helped pave the way for the Beavers and their fans to start dreaming of a return to the postseason for a program that so desperately deserves it.
Chances are, you probably the story here. And to be real about it, the facts and figures of Lebanon Catholic’s recent history don’t really need to be repeated at this juncture. Why? Well, mostly because the Beavers’ past does not need to serve as a standard-bearer nor indicator for what this group can ultimately achieve. In fact, there’s been a new dawn rising at the parochial school located just outside of Lebanon city for a few years now. And truth be told, this just may end up being the season is which the first initial rays of light start to peek out from over the horizon.
Most of that – if not all of it really – is due to leadership and intensity that Beavers’ third-year head coach Wee Sanchez has brought with him to the top chair on the bench up on Assumption Hill. If ever there was a coach that seems to be “the right guy at the right time,” it just may very well be Sanchez’s appointment to the head position at Lebanon Catholic. And while the results may only be seen to those on the outside of the program as measures of small, incremental stages of progress, it is still progress nonetheless. After all, good luck trying to persuade the Beavers into thinking moments after their win over Pequea Valley last December — a win that was five long (Okay, very long) years in the making that signified Lebanon Catholic’s first victory against L-L competition since 2014 — that it didn’t mean very much. You see, if you start to build a stable home, ala a sustainable athletic program, you must first start with a stable and sturdy foundation before working upwards from there.
So, with such a strong mixture of concrete already having been poured out upon the ground from which they could work with, it probably should have been all that unexpected to see the Beavers in this very position this year, clamoring to make their case for a chance at sneaking into the District 3-A field and prove their merits if given a bid. Suffice to say, that is precisely why assignments such as the one the Beavers had on Thursday night against Susquenita were so vitally important given Lebanon Catholic’s current #12-seed within a field that will only take 10 participants.
And in a game that they absolutely had to claim in order to help keep their postseason aspirations afloat, Lebanon Catholic very maturely and matter-of-factly went about their business when duty called on Thursday evening.
To say that the Beavers came out of the gates firing might not be doing it justice. To be sure, Lebanon Catholic seemed fall in love with the 3-ball right from the opening tip. Fortunately for them, it was not a case of unrequited love, as a pair of triples dialed up 5’11 junior guard, Mark Gates, helped push the Beavers out to the early 8-4 lead just 2:25 into the contest. From there, Gates’ prolific shooting touch seemed to be contagious considering that fellow backcourt mate, 5’10 sophomore Peter Skulski, proceeded to follow right behind his elder statesman by promptly bombing in a pair of triples in his own right, quickly increasing the Lebanon Catholic advantage up to double figures at 14-4 nearly two minutes later.
But the Beavers weren’t done there. No, certainly not when 6’4 senior big man, Albie O’Rawe, got into the mix of course — Lebanon Catholic’s lone senior mind you – with O’Rawe registering a timely deuce inside just before the first quarter horn which put the Beavers up 16-4 after the opening eight minutes.
Ironically, or perhaps in a cruel fate of irony depending on who the fans in the stands might have been cheering for on Thursday night, the game’s second quarter seemed to mirror the period which had come just before it.
For evidence of that, simply look to Mark Gates pumping in a trifecta to start the second quarter proceedings, effectively getting the Beavers out to the most torrid of starts once the frame got underway.
Speaking of ironic, that likely seemed to be the prevailing feeling up on Assumption Hill just moments later when another three-point play, this one of the old-fashioned variety thanks to Peter Skulski’s hoop plus the harm, propelled the Beavers out to the gargantuan 22-5 advantage before a desperately-needed Susquenita bucket from the Blackhawk junior forward, Noah Chronister, helped end ‘Nita’s scoring drought, making it a 26-7 Lebanon Catholic lead. Shortly thereafter, a Logan Knuth 3-ball was poured in right on top of the Chronister bucket to help aid the Susquenita cause, cutting the Lebanon Catholic lead down to 26-10 near the midway point of the second stanza.
Yet just when Susquenita seemed to be gaining control of the game’s momentum, the Beavers would fortify the dam and answer right back in the form of a smooth triple stroked home by Lebanon Catholic 5’7 sophomore guard, Nikko Cruz-Buck, pushing the Beavers’ lead back up to a hefty 17-point buffer at 29-12, before a Mark Gates take to the rack just moments prior to the second quarter horn helped send the homestanding Beavers into their dressing room with firm ownership of the 31-14 advantage.
Remarkably, for a team that understandably still might be getting their feet wet in terms of winning basketball games when it matters most, Lebanon Catholic seemed to be the epitome of unphased even despite their significant halftime cushion. In fact, the Beavers hogged the ball for all of 1:30 once the third quarter got underway. And perhaps most fittingly of all, the possession was ultimately capped off with a 3-ball, this one splashed in by Nikko Cruz-Buck, effectively sending the message that Lebanon Catholic had no desires whatsoever in terms of letting their lead gradually slip away from their grasp.
In all actuality, the Beavers’ lead only continued to grow.
Shortly after the initial Cruz-Buck triple which got the third quarter started, the Beavers proceeded to tally the next five points in a row as well, as Lebanon Catholic’s initial 8-0 salvo right out the locker room forced Susquenita’s hand which resulted in the Blackhawks burning a timeout with their deficit now standing at 39-14 with 5:28 still left to go in the third.
However, even once ‘Nita would be able to calm the waters somewhat and regain their traction even despite their massive predicament, the Beavers would immediately jump right back on top of their guests and keep inflicting even more damage upon them as nifty bucket inside courtesy of Lebanon Catholic 6’3 sophomore forward, Carter Dodson, helped exacerbate the Beavers’ lead even further, making it a 45-18 affair with Susquenita taking another sudden timeout in the face of the current Lebanon Catholic blitz with 1:59 left to play before the end of the third quarter.
And while an immediate 5-0 run — all of which was authored by Susquenita junior point guard, Logan Knuth — shrunk the Beavers’ lead in half at 46-23, yet another Lebanon Catholic trifecta, this one the handiwork of Nikko Cruz-Buck just seconds before the third quarter horn helped send the Beavers into the final quarter with the commanding 49-23 lead to their name.
Likely to the surprise of no one still left in attendance, Lebanon Catholic continued to press on and show no flinch in the final quarter as well. In fact, even though Susquenita’s third quarter rally had helped bring the Beavers’ lead down somewhat, a traditional three-point play by Lebanon Catholic’s Albie O’Rawe allowed the hosts to keep their lead at a 26-point difference with 5:40 left to play as O’Rawe’s old-school play made it a 54-28 Beavers’ lead.
However, even while Lebanon Catholic’s offensive performance certainly was impressive all night long, the Beavers were not exactly shy in terms of getting after it on the other end of the floor as well. And perhaps nothing illustrated that better than with Peter Skulski giving up his body for the betterment of the team, even though the game was already well out-of-reach, as Skulski confidently stood his ground and took a charge for a play that perhaps best personified this new chapter of Lebanon Catholic Basketball to an absolute T.
So, with the stage having been set for the many of the Beavers’ reserves getting a chance to check into the contest, there were certainly more than a few that scooped up the opportunity and ran with it.
First up for the brand-new Lebanon Catholic contingent onto the floor was 6’2 freshman forward, Tye Hains, who immediately made the most of his playing time by chipping in a nice bucket from point-blank range as his teammates cheered him on from the nearby bench.
But perhaps no cheer in the gym for the entirety of the evening was as loud as the one that came when Lebanon Catholic 5’5 freshman guard, Clayton Smoker, locked his man down defensively and forced a Susquenita traveling violation as a result, much to the delight of everyone wearing the script Lebanon Catholic jerseys donned across their chests.
Needless to say, it was night well-worth celebrating from all possible angles as Lebanon Catholic effectively handled their mission in dominating fashion against Susquenita, coming away with a key 62-36 victory.
Granted, while Lebanon Catholic’s Thursday night triumph may not necessarily move the needle for most, you best believe that the Beavers are well-aware of their situation from here on out and how vital each and every opportunity will be.
“In the pregame today, I wrote #12 on the board because that’s where we’re at right now for districts,” Lebanon Catholic head coach Wee Sanchez of the message delivered to his troops prior to taking the floor. “I told them that this is a game that we needed to win to jump us up (in the standings) a little bit,” said Sanchez. “We haven’t been to districts for a few years now and these kids are hungry for it. That’s one of our main goals is to jump into districts. We’re right there. We’re knocking on the door,” Sanchez added. “But we need to win the games that we need to win and compete.”
And if the Beavers are ultimately able to make good on those preseason aspirations of securing a postseason berth, they will have to do so while relying on a boatload of underclassmen to help lead them into the promised land.
“For us, the good news is that our younger underclassmen are very high IQ basketball players which is fun to watch,” Sanchez said highlighting the makeup of his roster this year. “What’s tough for me is that our only senior (Albie O’Rawe) has been with me for three years and he’s a tough, tough worker and he really cares about it, so that’s going to be tough for me to see him leave next year,” said Sanchez before optimistically offering, “I think our future is bright here for the next couple years, so it should be fun to watch.”
“This year, I said that I wanted to be competitive in (L-L) Section Five and for the most part I think we have been,” the Beavers’ boss continued on. “Our section helps us get ready for our ‘other season’ against single A schools and what have you to where we can compete for districts. In our league games, yeah, sometimes we’re overmatched, but guess what? That’s making us better and helping us get to where we need to get to.”
NEXT UP: Speaking of where they need to get to, the Beavers will receive a rare Friday night off from competitive game competition before getting back on the floor once again on Saturday night against Conestoga Christian before yet another nonleague game on Monday night, this one back at home against York Country Day, before Lebanon Catholic jumps right back into L-L Section Five play on Tuesday night with a roadtrip to Lancaster Country Day in a game between the L-L’s lone District 3-A schools that coincidently just so happen to find each other sitting right on the cutline.
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