By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
Before the first game even tipped off this season, Lourdes coach Mike Klembara got his team together and told them very simply that if they were going to make a run, they needed to do one thing: win districts.
A task probably easier said than done, especially considering the District 4 Class A field that Lourdes had to get by. First a semifinal game against Benton and senior Justine Seely followed by a championship game against a talented Sayre squad. Neither game was in any way a cakewalk, but Lourdes won both en route to a fifth consecutive District 4 Class A title
"Every indication was if we came out as district champions, the road to where we're at now would be relatively easy and sure enough, it has been," Klembara said on Thursday.
Lourdes (22-5) is now one of the top four teams in the Eastern region after an exciting 57-42 win over Girard College on Wednesday night, a game in which the Red Raiders controlled from start to finish. That comes off the heels of a 51-29 rout of Upper Dauphin in the first round of the PIAA Class A state tournament.
You could say the road as been slightly easy thus far.
Lourdes never trailed against Upper Dauphin in the first round and only trailed against Girard College for 1:14 early on in the first quarter before building up a double-digit lead relatively quickly.
Up next today (1 p.m., East Pennsboro High School, for Lourdes is District 5 runner-up Southern Fulton (23-2), led by a 1,000-point scorer in junior guard Macey Hollenshead.
"They're probably as good a team as we've faced all year long," Klembara said of Southern Fulton. "They're probably as well coached a team as we have faced all year long (too). They play a 1-3-1 defense which we do not see very much, so it's taken us (Thursday and Friday) practicing against it so our girls feel very comfortable in the way we want to attack it.
"We've got to contain their point guard (Hollenshead), which is a challenge."
Part of Lourdes' run into the PIAA quarterfinals is the way it plays as a team.
Rachel Schultz leads the Red Raiders with 15 points per game while Sarah Getchey is averaging nearly 13. Getchey also broke the school record this season for most 3-pointers in a single season (58), a mark previously held by Sara Schroyer (2000-01).
In addition to those two, Nikki Komara leads the team in both rebounds and assists.
Anyone suiting up for the Red Raiders can step up at any given time, a nice factor to have in the state playoffs. And no matter which five Klembara has out on the court, the speed Lourdes possesses always plays to its advantage.
"We want to take advantage of the God-given talent that our girls have and that of course is their quickness and (we want to) certainly enhance that and improve upon that," Klembara.
That speed is not only crucial offensively, but defensively as well. Klembara and his team know that solid defense is just as crucial to winning as a talented offense.
"When we approached this season this year, I felt that we weren't going to win just by outscoring people. We were going to win by solid defense, shoot fouls well and execute our offense," Klembara said. "That was what our goal was against every opponent and we were going to control the tempo of the game as much as we could (and) playing great defense was paramount and when the opportunity presents itself, we were going to spread the floor and make layups and make fouls."
Lourdes' speed can be seen on every play, particularly with quick passes to move the opposing defenses around, much like it did against Girard College in the second round.
The Red Raiders quick passing offense allowed for lanes to open up against the Lady Tigers and for Lourdes to make easy baseline buckets.
In addition, that uptempo game that Lourdes plays creates a handful of turnovers. In the last two games alone, Lourdes has forced 59 turnovers and swiped away 31 balls, including 11 from Schultz.
"She's a very gifted athlete," Klembara said of Schultz. "She shoots the ball really well, hit many clutch baskets for us. (On Wednesday night) she hit some good baseline buckets for us and did the same thing against Sayre in our district final. But she also rebounds well. She has a multitude of steals and she just gets better and better as far as assists go."
Regardless, however, of speed and quickness, Lourdes will have a tough test against the Indians today.
"They've got a multitude of scorers. Girard had two, this team has three, possibly four, maybe five (scorers)," Klembara.
"They get contributions from everyone. They're a high-scoring team, probably score more points than any team we've played all year long."
The Indians scored 63 in their first-round win over Juniata Valley and scored 73 on Wednesday against Halifax.
Whoever comes out on top of today's quarterfinal will advance into the semifinals to play the winner of the Steelton-Highspire/Tri-Valley game at a time and site to be determined on Tuesday.