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IMG_7920BY JEFF FALK

LEBANON – It’s always tricky sledding when one attempts to single out individuals in team sports – especially one as chemistry-oriented as basketball.

There’s no denying that Luis Aquino-Rios has made great strides as a basketball player. How much? About as much as the Lebanon boys have improved as a basketball team overall.

But Aquino-Rios has done more than just mirrored the Cedars’ development. In many ways, he is Lebanon’s final piece, the one that completes it, the one that makes it whole.

You see, given Lebanon’s existing personnel, Aquino-Rios is the perfect complement. With his toughness, his smarts and his controlled aggression, the junior point guard brings to the floor what no other teammate quite possesses.

But then again, given his elevated skill set, Aquino-Rios would make any team better.

“Yes, I’m a much better player than I was last year,” said Aquino-Rios. “Much stronger. I’m a better shooter. I worked all summer on it.

“In the spring time, I woke up at 4:30 every morning, for six a.m. workouts,” Aquino-Rios continued. “I worked on my threes. I worked on my foul shots. I worked on my handle. And I think it’s really showing on the varsity level.”

IMG_6988“He’s my point guard. He’s expected to do a lot,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “I’m hard on him. But he does his best and gives me everything I ask for. He’s also gained the respect of his teammates.

“I think a lot of people would call him a glue guy,” continued Speraw. “He holds us together. He’s one of our best defenders, if not our best defender. He can play the other team’s best guard or a post player. He’s just a good fit for what we have right now.”

Following an uneven 1-2 start, the Cedars have rattled off eight quality outings in-a-row, seven of which were wins. Aquino-Rios is leading the Cedars in scoring at a clip of more than 12 points per game and is one of Lebanon’s top three-point shooters and free throwers.

While there’s a ton of basketball yet to be played, Lebanon is 5-0 and currently owns a two-game lead in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Should the Cedars make good on their fast start, Aquino-Rios would not only demand consideration as the circuit’s top newcomer, but also as its MVP.

IMG_7899“We weren’t playing as a team at all,” said Aquino-Rios of a 58-42 loss to rival Cedar Crest on Dec. 10, Lebanon’s low point of the season. “It was just a mental thing. Like, ‘We can’t win this game. We don’t have what it takes’. We have to play harder the next time we play them.

“We had a little slow start (to the season),” Aquino-Rios added. “We had back-to-back losses and it felt like we weren’t playing as a team. We had a little talk and we started doing all the right things. Now I feel like we’re doing all the right things.”

“He’s a big part of it,” said Speraw of the Cedars’ improvement. “He does a little bit of everything. He’s figuring out what needs to be done in games. He doesn’t take a lot of three-pointers, but he has the highest (three-point shooting) percentage on the team. He’s a team-first kid and a win-first kid. You can’t have enough of those kids.

“I think we’ve gotten a good deal better,” added Speraw. “In the summer we were always missing kids. We have a lot of football kids. It takes time to build chemistry and find out what roles everyone is going to have. Chemistry is probably the biggest reason for our success. We just have a better feel for what everyone can do, what we can do offensively.”

What makes the 6-0 Aquino-Rios’ skill set unique is how many things he can do well. He’s a fearless driver of the basketball, but he can also pull up. He’s poised, intelligent and intense. He can play defense on or away from the ball. He’s tough and adaptable.

IMG_7914In a word, Aquino-Rios is versatile.

“Attack the basket,” said Aquino-Rios of his role. “Make plays. Hit open shots. Work the offense. Be a leader on this team.

“I thought I got off to a slow start, just because it was my first time playing varsity,” continued Aquino-Rios. “I struggled. Then I got used to it. I felt the game, and I was more comfortable doing what I can do. But I feel like I can still improve.”

“He’s improved a lot,” said Speraw. “He put in time in the weight room. He put time into building his skills. He’s always asking questions. He wants to learn. He has the will to get better.

“I expected it,” Speraw continued. “I know the time he’s put in to get better. I’d say his consistency has surprised me a little. He’s steady, and been flying under the radar a little bit.”

At the beginning of the season, Aquino-Rios was selected as one of the Cedars’ three captains, despite having little or no varsity experience. That on a Lebanon team that is loaded with seniors.

IMG_6949But one also in need of an infusion of new blood.

“I feel like I’m a leader, but that there’s a lot of leaders on the team,” said Aquino-Rios, through a sincere smile. “Some have led at different times. It means a lot to me to be a leader. It gives me a lot of responsibility. I try bringing others up. I’m always positive.

“I feel like we’ve been playing together, being more positive, running the court and not being selfish,” added Aquino-Rios. “When the other team’s defense focuses on one person, it can open up opportunities for others.”

“I think he is a leader,” said Speraw. “As junior, when you get voted a captain, that says a lot. It says his teammates want him in a leadership role. I think sometimes he leads more by example. I think next year he’ll become more vocal. He’s doing a great job of being one of the leaders of our team right now.

“He’s also a straight-A student,” Speraw added. “He’s not only putting his time in on the court, but also in the class room. He takes pride in his grades too.”

The only real danger for Lebanon moving forward is becoming stagnant, of not continuing to evolve as a team. With Aquino-Rios firmly in the mix, that possibility seems unlikely.

“The goal is to just keep winning,” said Aquino-Rios. “Winning out in the section. Doing whatever we have to do to beat Cedar Crest and Hempfield and the other teams in the section. Win our league and make it to districts. And try to get to Hershey, baby!”

“It’s going well so far,” said Speraw. “We think we could’ve won some games we lost. We’re on the right track. We’re playing hard. We’ve just got to get better.

“I think a lot of it is our depth,” continued Speraw. “We have different guys step up different nights. We have four or five guys who can lead us in scoring, but we also have guys who doing things that don’t show up in the box score.”

IMG_7926To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.

 

 

 

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 2016-17 Lebanon Boys’ Basketball Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
12/09 #
Red Lion
7:30 PM W 52-39
12/10 #
Cedar Crest
7:30 PM L 42-58
12/14
Governor Mifflin
7:30 PM L 50-54
12/16 *
Manheim Twp.
7:30 PM W 64-52
12/19 *
@McCaskey
7:30 PM W 68-58
12/21 *
Warwick
7:30 PM W 79-56
12/29
Cedar Cliff
6:00 PM W 67-50
12/30
Camp Hill
6:00 PM W 68-44
01/03 *
@Penn Manor
7:30 PM
01/06 *
@Conestoga Valley
7:30 PM
01/07
@Palmyra
5:30 PM L 73-75, OT
DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
01/10 *
Hempfield
7:30 PM Lebanon High School
01/13 *
@Cedar Crest
7:30 PM Cedar Crest High School
01/17 *
@Manheim Twp.
7:30 PM Manheim Twp. High School
01/20 *
McCaskey
7:30 PM Lebanon High School
01/23
@Ephrata
7:30 PM Ephrata High School
01/24 *
@Warwick
7:30 PM Warwick High School
01/27 *
Penn Manor
7:30 PM Lebanon High School
01/31 *
Conestoga Valley
7:30 PM Lebanon High School
02/03 *
@Hempfield
7:30 PM Hempfield High School
02/04
Hershey
2:30 PM Lebanon High School
02/07 *
Cedar Crest
7:30 PM Lebanon High School

 

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Lancaster-Lebanon League

 Section One Standings

 

League Overall
  W L PCT W L PCT PS PA
Lebanon 5 0 100.00 8 3 72.73 695 591
Hempfield 3 2 60.00 8 3 72.73 556 490
Cedar Crest 3 2 60.00 7 3 70.00 569 537
Manheim Township 3 2 60.00 6 4 60.00 620 558
McCaskey 3 2 60.00 4 5 44.44 551 578
Warwick 2 3 40.00 5 7 41.67 679 758
Penn Manor 1 4 20.00 4 7 36.36 482 597
Conestoga Valley 0 5 0.00 1 11 8.33 631 685

 

 

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 PIAA District Three

 Class AAAAAA Power Rankings

 

AAAAAA School  W  L  T  Rating  TWP  OWP
1 Governor Mifflin 10- 1- 0  0.804707  0.940711  0.638479
2 Carlisle 8- 2- 0  0.790839  0.867257  0.697439
3 Reading 10- 2- 0  0.785635  0.863636  0.690301
4 Harrisburg 7- 2- 0  0.762426  0.853659  0.650919
5 Central Dauphin East 7- 3- 0  0.742801  0.791667  0.683076
6 Wilson (3) 8- 3- 0  0.724881  0.800000  0.633069
7 Lebanon 8- 3- 0  0.712472  0.811715  0.591174
8 Dallastown Area 8- 3- 0  0.703631  0.790123  0.597918
9 Cedar Crest 8- 3- 0  0.698324  0.800000  0.574054
10 Chambersburg Area 7- 4- 0  0.680104  0.733333  0.615045
11 Central York 7- 4- 0  0.677042  0.716738  0.628523
12 Manheim Township 6- 4- 0  0.672057  0.708738  0.627224
13 HEMPFIELD 7- 4- 0  0.665409  0.736170  0.578924
14 Central Dauphin 6- 5- 0  0.648009  0.648889  0.646934
15 J P McCaskey 4- 5- 0  0.606371  0.564972  0.656969
16 Cumberland Valley 4- 8- 0  0.570624  0.439252  0.731190
17 Warwick 5- 7- 0  0.566910  0.504310  0.643421
18 Penn Manor 4- 8- 0  0.513559  0.412844  0.636655
19 York County School Of Technology 2- 5- 0  0.412052  0.296296  0.553532
20 Red Lion Area 1- 9- 0  0.361315  0.125000  0.650144
21 Conestoga Valley 1- 10- 0  0.334194  0.083799  0.640233
22 Cedar Cliff 0- 11- 0  0.303604  0.000000  0.674677

 

 

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