LANCASTER – You can work hard and you can develop chemistry, but there’s only so much you can simulate in practice. To improve, to really get better, you’ve got to play games.
Right now, the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team is playing catch up. And while the set of circumstances surrounding it are certainly unfortunate, it beats the heck out of the alternative.
On Friday night at J.P. McCaskey High School, the Falcons’ rust was glaring, during a 67-47 road loss to the Red Tornado. Cedar Crest was competitive and right there with McCaskey, before surrendering 26 points in the third quarter.
The Lancaster-Lebanon Section One contest represented the Falcons’ first game in 17 days, courtesy of COVID-19 and weather pauses. At 2-3 on the season and 2-2 in Section One, Cedar Crest has now played only five games since the start of the shortened and delayed season four weeks ago.
By contrast, squads like McCaskey, now 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the section, have played as many as eight games, or ten, or 12.
“Yeah, we’re behind a little bit,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “No excuses. We have to roll with the punches. When you’re coming off ten days without a practice, you’re not starting over, but you’re close. But to their credit, my kids are showing up and not letting it bother them.
“We couldn’t really do anything (over the last 17 days),” continued Smith. “We kept in touch, We got one practice in, and then we had some snow days. We had three practices before tonight. But everyone has been working their tails off.”
The Falcons’ only lead of the evening came early, at 5-3 courtesy of a Max Scipioni three-pointer. McCaskey closed out the opening period with a 9-2 burst and a 12-7 lead.
“I thought we played well,” said Smith. “I know the score doesn’t suggest it. Did we make mistakes? Yeah. Do we have things to clean up? Yeah.
“It was an important game because it was a Section One game,” Smith continued. “The only games that count towards the league playoffs are section games, which made this one a little bigger.”
Cedar Crest used back-to-back treys from Izaa Reyes-Vegas and Chris Danz to pull to within 19-17 late in the second quarter. But the Red Tornado finished the half with the final five points to carry a 24-17 advantage to the locker room, and it proved to be a sign of things to come in the second half.
“I think we were able to execute the game plan better in the second half,” said Smith. “McCaskey made shots in the second half, and they shot very well from the free throw line. It was some fundamental things, like not boxing out.
“Defensively, we executed our game plan very well in the first half,” added Smith. “But we had to do some things in the second half because they made shots. If we would’ve shot better in the first half, I think we would’ve had the lead.”
Scipioni paced the Falcons with 12 points, while Matt Smith contributed ten. McCaskey made 15 of its 22 foul shots, compared to Cedar Crest’s nine-for-16 free throwing.
“Honestly, I thought we ran our offense rather well,” said Smith. “We didn’t make shots. That’s been one of our issues. We’re not shooting the ball consistently, but we’re taking the right shots.”
McCaskey lit up Cedar Crest early in the third quarter.
The Red Tornado came out of the locker room on an 11-2 tear to push its advantage to 35-19. Before the end of the third stanza, McCaskey was sitting on a 50-28 cushion.
“We talked about a three-and-a-half minute stretch where the game got away from us,” said Smith. “They (the Red Tornado) just exploded. It was a two-point game late in the first half, and the game ended with them up 20. They were making a lot of shots, and when they weren’t, they were getting offensive rebounds.
“We had to do some things in the second half to try to make them play faster,” Smith added. “But in the third quarter, they were running their offense.”
Cedar Crest did manage to tally the first four points of the final quarter, on a Smith bucket and two free throws by Scipioni, to get to within 50-34. But it would prove to be as close as the Falcons would come.
“We’re 2-3, but we’re right in the thick of things in Section One,” said Smith. “We have all of our goals still in front of us. If we control the things we can control, we can still reach our goals.”
at Manheim Township
at Cedar Crest
at Cedar Crest
at Cedar Crest
|15||Central Dauphin East||4-||3-||0||0.650934||0.689655||0.603607||5.00||75.30||2.25||49.45|
|16||J P McCaskey||4-||4-||0||0.650384||0.625000||0.681409||5.00||90.90||3.00||42.50|
|25||York County School of Technology||0-||7-||0||0.250602||0.000000||0.556893||0.00||92.50||6.85||73.60|