The clock is ticking on the Lebanon boys’ basketball team’s process of learning how to win. If time runs out, the Cedars will not reach their stated goals.
In a game it absolutely needed to have on Thursday night, the Lebanon boys’ basketball team experienced difficulties closing out Solanco. The Cedars squandered all but four of a 16-point lead, before flipping the switch again to pull away from the stubborn Golden Mules, 66-49.
After Solanco had cut its deficit to 53-49 with 2:39 remaining, the Cedars tallied the last 13 points of the game. Senior point guard Drey Murray notched six of those points and junior forward Dorian Ginnetto contributed five.
Solanco had started its comeback against the Lebanon reserves, and after the Cedar starters had been re-inserted into the game, it took them awhile to get going again. Lebanon High went without a point for the opening 3:23 of the final stanza.
The Cedars, who have now won three in-a-row, are in the midst of a tenacious battle for survival and their playoff lives. Lebanon, now 8-9 overall and 6-7 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, entered the fray 28th in a District Three Class AAAA field that takes 20 teams for its postseason.
“I think we’re still learning how to win, how to close out games,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “We lost five senior starters. It’s still a process for us. We have to limit our bad times, and maximize the time on the court when we’re playing well.
“We need to get to districts (to be considered a good team),” Speraw continued. “We need to get to leagues. We need to get to the playoffs, and as many as possible.”
“It’s very important,” said Murray of the postseason. “Since before the season started, we’ve talked about being a team that makes it to districts and makes it to the playoffs. But we need to prove we’re a playoff team.”
Lebanon opened the second half with buckets buckets from Josh Spaulding and Evan Zimmerman to take a 37-27 lead. Then an 8-2 run near the end of the third quarter gave the Cedars what appeared to be a comfortable 48-32.
It was at that point that Speraw inserted five fresh faces off the Cedar bench.
“I thought it was just a lack of focus across the board,” said Speraw. “I don’t think it was the bench players or the starters, it was the group.
“We just got careless with the ball,” Speraw continued. “We got complacent. They (the Mules) got a couple of good looks. We just had to take a step back, relax and think about what got us the lead. And that’s what we went back to.”
“As a starter, you never want to be done for the game,” said Murray. “Every one of our starters wants to stay in the game till the clock says, ‘Zero’. We never really turned it off. But it’s tough to come back and kind of get going again.
“Some of our younger guys aren’t experienced with varsity basketball,” Murray added. “Even though we’re deep in the season, the juniors are still learning. They don’t think as much. They just go off instinct. It’s just inexperience.”
The Cedars shared the ball well, and that fact showed in the team’s scoring. Ginnetto popped for a team-high 18 points, while Murray and Spaulding each netted 13 and Zimmerman collected a dozen.
“Tonight was important because Lebanon was playing,” said Speraw, “and we needed a win. The hole we put ourselves in, we need to win every game from here on out. We didn’t play our best, but we came out on top.
“It’s always a goal for us to make districts,” Speraw continued. “At this point, we can’t afford to lose one game. Every game is a playoff game. We were in a similar situation two years ago, and we won seven of eight games to sneak into districts, and we finished eighth.”
“Before we started this three-game streak, we had a long talk about what we wanted to do,” Murray added. “We knew we were a pretty good team and we came up with a two-word phrase ‘Buy In’. It’s helped us focus as a team. Now we’ve won three in-a-row and we’re on a run.”
Solanco pressed Lebanon full-court for most of the contest, and overall the Cedars handled it well. Early on, Lebanon shredded the Mule pressure and jumped out to an 8-2 advantage, thanks in part to some hot shooting by Zimmerman.
But Solanco answered with an 11-3 spurt of its own to take a 13-11 lead. It was 19-16 Mules early in the second stanza when the Cedars ripped off seven straight points – a Kristian Sanchez trey, Spaulding’s steal and dunk and an inside move from Ginnetto – to assume a 23-19 edge.
Lebanon took a 33-27 margin to the locker room.
“I wasn’t surprised at all that they pressed,” said Speraw of the Mules. “I knew they’d full-court press us and and half-court trap us. That’s what they do. At times, we just got careless with the ball. But we were getting the looks we wanted.
“We played really well at times,” Speraw continued. “And we played really bad at times. Luckily in the end, we played more well than we did bad.”
“As we go into the season, a lot of teams are realizing our weakness is our offense against the press,” said Murray. “When we get pressed, we got a little tuned up. And other teams see it and they want to take full advantage of it.”
Back on January 2nd in Quarryville, Lebanon had defeated Solanco 56-38.