(Editor’s Note: This piece on the 2014 District Three Class AAAA championship game between Cedar Crest and York High first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz on March 1, 2014. The Falcons and Bearcats will meet again on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Giant Center, for the 2015 District Three title.)
BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Over his career, this reporter has always shied away from identifying officiating as a cause or reason for winning and losing – only because if one focused on the effects that officials have on outcomes, there wouldn’t be enough space left to write about anything else, and because it makes the team on the wrong side of ‘the calls’ look like it’s crying sour grapes. But not sure, in the interest of fairness and balanced reporting, it’s always right to just ignore the officiating, or explain it away as ‘just a part of the game.’
Or here’s another way to look at it. When two teams are as close and as evenly matched as the Cedar Crest and York High boys’ basketball teams, a couple of calls one way or the other has the power to change the outcome of a game. Besides do we really want to eliminate the human element from scholastic athletics?
On Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center, a couple of calls that didn’t go the Falcons way, may have cost them their first-ever District Three championship.
Kristopher Johnson’s pull-up 15-foot jumper with three seconds remaining gave York High a 54-52 victory over Cedar Crest, before 4,402 paid in the Class AAAA final. Out of a time out, the Bearcats cleared the floor for Johnson to go one-one-one with his Falcon defender, and the sophomore forward chose a jumper from the left part of the foul line extended.
Unlike three days earlier, the Falcons could not execute a miraculous length-of-the-court play from under their own basket in the remaining seconds, which would’ve sent the game to ‘bonus basketball’.
Johnson’s game-winner capped a spirited Bearcat comeback from 11 points down with less than six-and-a-half minutes to go. York’s comeback was fueled by a couple of bang-bang plays that went against Cedar Crest – both block/charge calls that fouled out starters, first Andrew Eudy, and then Nick Miller.
After Miller was called for an offensive charge with 1:13 remaining, York was able to run the clock down to Johnson’s game-winner.
Here are a few numbers to chew on: Cedar Crest was whistled for 24 fouls, compared to York’s 15. The Bearcats attempted 13 more free throws than the Falcons, and outscored CC by seven points at the foul stripe.
“It’s unfortunate that officials can play such a role in the outcome of a game,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “They affected the game in two ways. My Big (Andrew Eudy) takes a charge from another player, and then on the other end, another player (Miller), on the exact same play, is called for a charge. We didn’t get any calls. It’s unfortunate for our young men in the locker room.
“We can adjust,” Smith continued. “We were feeling bad we weren’t getting the same calls. It (the officiating) wasn’t consistent.”
“I thought things went well at the beginning, but in the third and fourth quarters, the refs got a little whistle happy,” said Eudy. “We can’t control that. But when it affects the outcome of the game, it’s a little ridiculous.”
Third-seeded Cedar Crest, which had advanced to its first-ever district championship game with a Eudy buzzer-beater on Wednesday, lost for the first time in ten games and fell to 25-5 overall. The Falcons will see their next action in the PIAA Class AAAA tournament on Saturday, versus the seventh-place finisher out of District One, at a site and time to be announced.
York High, which was the number eight seed in the district postseason, improved to 22-6.
“It was a tough shot,” said Smith of Johnson. “They did isolate him. We wanted to force the jump shot and rebound. When it left his hand it looked good. We wanted the jump shot and no lay-up. It was a big shot and the kid made it.
“We can play those guys (the Bearcats) ten times, and it would end up being 5-5,” Smith continued. “They were the better team today. If you take those two (Eudy and Miller) out of our rotation, it’s a big loss for us, especially with that much time remaining. We tried to weather the storm.”
“I really don’t look at it that way,” said Eudy, when it was pointed out to him that the Falcons had had some things go their way on the way to the district final. “We put in a lot of hard work to be here. If you put in this much hard work, good things happen.”
A driving lay-in from Miller 42 seconds into the final quarter gave Cedar Crest a 49-38 margin. But with Trey Shifflett carrying it, York High scored nine of the next ten points to trim the Falcons’ advantage to 50-47.
It was at that point that Eudy took a large defensive stride to the baseline under the CC basket and appeared to establish position ahead of a hard-charging Bearcat attacker, but was called for a block and his fifth personal foul. A minute later, a Miller jumper seemed to stop the Falcon bleeding, and upped their lead to 52-48.
But that would prove to be the last points Cedar Crest would score. A couple of inside baskets by York’s Jahair Wilson 40 seconds apart knotted the score at 52, with 1:38 to go.
Over the eight minutes that was the fourth quarter, the Bearcats outscored the Falcons 16-5. There were times down the stretch when Cedar Crest appeared tentative on the offensive end.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Smith. “When they (the officials) call fouls on you and don’t call fouls on them, you can’t win. I’m not taking anything away from York High. They’re a very good basketball team.
“When I looked up at the scoreboard and it said ‘Cedar Crest eight fouls and York High one’, I knew that’s the way it was going to be,” added Smith. “We knew we had to adjust.”
“I know for a fact that I was there,” said Eudy of the call that fouled him out. “And then the exact same call went against us for Nick Miller’s fifth foul. Everybody’s disappointed because we knew we should’ve won this game. We knew we had it in us. We are all upset. But we have a bigger stage coming up.”
In reality, the Falcons were a basket or two, a stop or two, a free throw or two, a call or two from opening a margin that the Bearcats couldn’t have come back from.
Cedar Crest held York to two points over the opening 5:35 of the second half, and extended its lead to 44-30 on a couple of foul shots from Evan Horn. In the Falcons’ balanced attack, Horn’s ten points represented the only scoring output of double digits.
“We didn’t handle the ball very well,” said Smith of the Falcons’ offensive execution in crunch time. “We kicked it around. We didn’t make foul shots. But after we settled down, we got to the rack more.
“It’s been a very successful season,” Smith continued. “We met a lot of our goals. We came up short today. Those guys in the locker room got everything they deserved. They’ve worked their tails off. They’ve got great character. They’re even better people than they are basketball players.”
“I don’t think so,” said Eudy, when asked if he would’ve been satisfied with a district silver medal at the beginning of the season. “We expected to do this. We made school history, but not to come out with a district championship is upsetting. We’ve had a great season. We just wanted a better outcome today.”
With each of its five starters scoring two points apiece, Cedar Crest jumped out to a 10-4 lead. But York ripped off 12 unanswered points during the middle of the opening stanza to establish a six-point cushion.
The Falcons had an answer, in the form of four points from Horn, three from Eudy and a 7-0 burst that gave them a 17-16 edge heading into the second. Then nursing a 22-21 lead, Cedar Crest outscored York High 13-7 over the final four minutes of the first half to take a 35-28 advantage to the intermission.
“It’s been a pretty successful season,” said Smith. “These kids worked hard. Right now, I can’t feel quite happy about it. When I step back and take a look at the success we’ve had, I’ll take it.
“We’ve got a chance to check some more things off our goal list,” Smith concluded. “We’ve got a five-game (state playoff) season coming up. This will hurt. But I know my kids are going to be ready to play.”
LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cedar Crest: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA)
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012.
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)