The potential, and thoughts of what could be, have been there for a couple years now.

But the Lebanon High girls' basketball team endured so many ups and downs, stops and starts, in that span that it was only right to wonder if it would ever truly realize that potential.

No one is wondering anymore.

The Cedars took care of any lingering doubts about them in emphatic fashion on Friday night at LHS, wrapping up the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two title with a mature, focused performance in a 48-41 clinching victory over tough customer Cocalico in front of an appreciative Senior Night crowd.

Led by a 21-point, five 3-pointer outburst from senior guard Shaela Shellehamer, Lebanon set the tone for the program's first section title since 2006-07 with a 17-7 run through the first quarter before withstanding numerous Cocalico runs at the lead in the final three quarters with a poise and confidence befitting a championship team.

And as if to drive the point home, the Cedars spent their postgame time engaged in a jubilant net-cutting ceremony as family and friends looked on with wide grins.

Almost as wide as the one head coach Ben Brewer was wearing.

"I'm just really proud of how they've matured off the court and on the court," Brewer said, as the festivities went on behind him. "I would have never imagined this type of season. It's been amazing. They just have come together, they've bought into what we're trying to teach them, and that's fun to see."


"This is literally one of the best moments of our lives," Shellehamer said. "It's what we've been working for all year. We all played together, we all played as a team. It was one of our best games so far."

Now 16-4 overall, 11-3 in the section and winners of 13 of its last 14, Lebanon showed why it's been so red-hot with its tone-setting first-quarter effort, which included points from five different players.

Junior point guard Brittany Ulrich (14 points) led the charge with two 3-point bombs, and center Madison Rakow capped the superb stretch with a putback with two seconds left in the opening quarter.

"We've had times during the year when we've come out slow," said Brewer. "And with the emotions of Senior Night, you're worried they're gonna be too hyped, too jittery. But they came out with composed energy, and that got them the lead."

The Cedars, however, did their best work when challenged by the Eagles (13-7, 8-6) and their go-to scorers Marissa Gingrich and Emily White, who combined for 34 points and many a big bucket.

But the Cedars, who led wire-to-wire, always had a response, particularly Shellehamer.

The senior sniper helped Lebanon survive a second-quarter dry spell with two of her five triples on the way to a 23-14 halftime lead. She then buried two pressure-packed bombs in the first 1:31 of the fourth quarter after Cocalico had pulled to within 32-31 after three.

"It felt really good," Shellehamer said of her big effort. "I'd been slacking a lot lately, so it just felt really good to come out and play as hard as I could. I knew I needed to step up, and that's what I did."

"I wrote her a little thank-you note tonight (for Senior Night), and in it I said, 'You've worked your butt off to become one of the best 3-point shooters in the league,'" Brewer said. "She proved it tonight."

A lot of Cedars proved themselves Friday, with big efforts also coming from two of Shellehamer's fellow seniors, Lauren Chambers and Kiana Graves, whose hustle and competitive fire was as important as any points from Shellehamer and Ulrich.

Cocalico was still within 45-41 after White's final points of the night with 1:30 left, but the Cedars ran their delay game expertly from there and clinched the win with two Chambers free throws with 27 ticks left.

"That was a team win, that was pretty fun," Brewer said. "Shaela with those 3-point shots, Brittany with penetration, Lauren hustling all over the court, my bigs inside getting offensive rebounds. I couldn't have asked for a better team performance."

Or a more joyful ending to the night.

"Sixteen years ago I got to do this," said Brewer, a reserve guard on a league champion Lebanon boys' team in 1997-98, as he watched his team cut down the nets. "I just wanted these girls to have that feeling of what it's like. This means the world to me, that they get to do this and have these memories."