NEW HOLLAND >> What was once a 14-point deficit was chopped all the way down to two.
Jenkintown’s relentless fourth-quarter comeback Tuesday night had brought the Drakes’ romping, stomping student section back to its feet and had Lebanon Catholic fighting for every basket.
State Final hopes were alive and well at Garden Spot High.
“It was a great feeling,” said Drakes junior guard Jennifer Kremp. “We all were like ‘we can win this game.’ We were one basket away and we knew we could score it.”
Down 39-37, Jenkintown had the ball with 21 seconds to go. The Drakes worked the ball around until Lebanon Catholic ultimately knocked it out of bounds with five ticks left.
Again, the Beavers swarmed the inbounds pass but Ashley Kremp would get a potential tying shot off. When it did not fall, Alexis Hill swooped in for the rebound, hit a pair of free throws at the other end with less than a second left, and the Beavers bit down hard to survive 41-37 over surging Jenkintown.
“We didn’t want the season to be over,” said Jennifer Kremp, who got hot in the fourth, sinking a pair of threes and scoring a team-high 14 points in all. “In the first half, we started to know who this team was got a feel for how the game was going. We just put the first half away, pretended it was 0-0.”
Jayden Shellehamer’s left-handed heave from underneath extended the Beaver lead to 30-16 early in the third, suggesting Lebanon Catholic — Champions of District Three — were in control.
But Jenkintown’s defense began clogging the middle, batting down passes, forcing turnovers, while the shooting of Jennifer Kremp and Caroline Arena shrunk the double-digit deficit.
“These girls have a lot of pride,” coach Jim Romano said of his District One Champs. “All season long they haven’t given up in any of the games we played.”
A drive to the hoop by Amelia Mulvaney brought Jenkintown within 36-26 and then a score in transition by Arena sliced it to 36-28.
Lebanon Catholic — held to just one field goal in the fourth, a basket by Hill — was 0-for-3 on fourth-quarter one-and-ones while Jenkintown continued to make shots at the other end.
A three by Arena made it a one-possession game, 37-34, with three minutes to go, and after Hill scored for LC, Kremp nailed her third three of the game to make it 39-37.
That’s the way it stayed until five seconds remained, with Jenkintown set to inbound.
“We wanted to get the ball to Jen but they cut that off,” Romano said. “We kicked it in, (LC) got a hand on it, it went to Ashley, and she did have a nice shot, it just fell short.”
Lebanon Catholic jumped out to an 8-0 lead early.
The Beavers had their inside-outside game working, as Jasmine Turner hit a pair of jumpers while Neesha Pierre and Hill, who had the game high with 20, were establishing their positions around the basket.
The Drakes came alive midway through the first, getting within 10-6 on a quick pullup jumper by Ashley Kremp. The Beavers surged back though, scoring in transition and getting a three-point play from Pierre to boost the margin to 17-8 after one.
Jennifer Kremp and Arena (13 pts) hit shots for the Drakes in the second quarter but another Lebanon Catholic push — keyed by a Pierre-to-Hill finish on a fast break — made it 28-16 at the break.
Lebanon Catholic led by as many as 14 in the second half then held on to advance to the State Final Friday in Hershey against Juniata Valley (12 p.m. tip-off).
“We’re gonna work over the summer and get even stronger,” Jennifer Kremp said of the Drakes returning their starting five, “and hopefully we’ll go even further.
“It was a really great run,” she said. “A lot of people doubted us but we never doubted ourselves. And I think that’s why we got so far. All of the girls on the team love the game so much and we never wanted the season to end.
“Although it ended like this, I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to play the season with.”
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