BY JEFF FALK
LITITZ – There is one universal truth about the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball team: The Falcons need either Ariel Jones or Alyssa Austin on the floor, at all times.
Cedar Crest isn’t Cedar Crest, without A.A. and Ariel.
On Wednesday night at Warwick High School, during the semifinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, the Falcons were without their two star players for significant periods of time due to foul difficulties – and when Cedar Crest was with them, their effectiveness was severely limited. The end result was a disappointing 43-40 loss to a solid Lancaster Catholic club.
Despite Austin’s and Jones’ foul woes, Cedar Crest was very much in striking distance down the stretch, first courtesy of a Caitlynn Albright jumper that pulled it to within 40-38 with 16 seconds remaining, and then a Jones drive that got it to within 42-40 with seven ticks to go. But Lancaster Catholic made good on four of its seven foul shots in final minute to hold the Falcons at bay.
The outcome denied Section One champion Cedar Crest, now 19-3 overall, a shot at defending its L-L League championship. The Falcons’ next action will come on Tuesday at 7 p.m., when they host McCaskey in the opening round of the District Three Class AAAA postseason, as the sixth seed.
Now 23-1 overall, Lancaster Catholic, the Section Four titlist, will take on Section Three champion Northern Lebanon, which smothered Lebanon Catholic 40-21 in the other semifinal, on Friday at 7 p.m. at Warwick, for the overall league championship. On January 13th in Lancaster, the Crusaders nudged the Vikings 53-49.
“They’re our two best players,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jim Donmoyer of Austin and Jones. “If they’re on the bench, we’ve got problems It’s inside-out. Now, they’re (the Crusaders) out on our shooters. It’s a different game for them (the Falcons’ role players). It’s all different.
“You can’t be the same (playing with foul troubles),” continued Donmoyer. “You’ve got to be hesitant. You’ve got to play different. You should play hesitant when you have two fouls. Yeah, we played different. It changes the strategy a little bit. I thought it was physical, but it was both ways.”
Cedar Crest went up 21-7, 2:14 into the second quarter, on a driving lay-in from Rachel Witherwrite. But 2:12 later, Austin picked up her third foul, and 35 seconds after that, Jones was whistled for her third.
The Falcons did not score for the remainder of the half, as Lancaster Catholic closed to within 21-19 before the break. And when Lauren Mills nailed a trey to open the third quarter, the Crusaders had their first lead of the evening, at 22-21.
“I don’t know what the reason was,” said Donmoyer. “They didn’t have foul trouble all year. And tonight they did.
“Some of them (the supporting cast) become scorers,” Donmoyer continued. “Some are shooters, but they need time. They can’t create their own shots. Yeah, their roles changed. Everybody’s role changed. I was just glad we hung in there before halftime.”
When Austin headed to the bench with her fourth foul late in the third quarter, Cedar Crest was facing a 30-26 deficit. When she returned 3:20 into the final period, the Falcons were looking up at a 39-32 hole.
Austin scored on a stick-back a minute-and-a-half later, but soon after that Lancaster Catholic went to its delay game.
“They (the Crusaders) average 70 points a game, but I wasn’t worried about our defense,” said Donmoyer. “I thought Ariel did a heck of a job on (Catholic freshman Kiki) Jefferson in the first half. It is what it is. You can’t win every year.
“That (the league championship) was a goal,” added Donmoyer. “We didn’t get it. It’s the first one so far we haven’t got. It’s just a ball game. We lost three games by five points.”
Austin struck for 16 points, including the 1,00th of her career, which came on an offensive rebound in the third quarter that gave the Falcons their last lead, at 23-22. Austin added 16 rebounds, while Jones was limited to seven points.
Cedar Crest canned just one of its six free throws, and was outscored at ‘the stripe’ by nine points.
“To be honest, she stressed the last two games about it,” said Donmoyer of Austin’s 1,000th point. “I wish she would’ve gotten it earlier. She played tight. At this point, it’s stressful enough. To her credit, if she catches the ball in the block, it’s a basket. I’m happy for her. I just wish it would’ve been sooner then this stage.
“They (the Crusaders) beat us by three points,” Donmoyer added. “We had a shot. Witherwrite hitting those two ‘threes’ (in the fourth quarter) was huge. It always seems there’s someone coming off the bench to provide a spark.”
It was all Falcons early.
Nursing a two-point edge, Cedar Crest rattled off nine unanswered points to build a 13-2 cushion. Gracen Donmoyer drained a three-pointer, Albright converted an offensive rebound, Jones drove hard to the rack and Austin maneuvered inside for a deuce.
“We built a lead, but we let off the gas,” said Donmoyer. “First Alyssa got her third foul, then Ariel got her third. It wasn’t good. It changed a lot of things. But we weren’t going to go away. The defense was good both ways. There wasn’t a lot of scoring. They made more plays than we did.
“I just told the girls that there’s no shame with what happened,” continued Donmoyer. “We lost by three. They’re a good team. My kids played well.”
The Falcons held Lancaster Catholic scoreless for the first three minutes of the second quarter, during which time they bumped their lead to 14 points. With a stick-back and a post move, Austin had her hands on both ends of the Cedar Crest flurry.
“The fouls hurt,” said Donmoyer. “But I’m not going to complain about the fouls. It was tough with our two best players on the bench. What are you going to do? I wasn’t happy.
“If I can have my two best players on the court, I’m happy,” added Donmoyer. “Defensively, I have no complaints. If you would’ve told me we were going to hold them to 43 points, I would’ve thought we’d win.”
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2015-16 Cedar Crest Girls’ Basketball Results
|6:00 PM||W 57-39|
|7:30 PM||W 47-26|
|7:30 PM||W 63-37|
|7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|7:30 PM||W 63-34|
|7:30 PM||W 70-55|
|7:30 PM||W 57-52|
|7:30 PM||L 49-50|
|6:00 PM||W 52-31|
|7:30 PM||W 60-41|
|7:30 PM||W 58-34|
|7:30 PM||W 63-42|
|7:30 PM||W 69-33|
|7:30 PM||W 62-42|
|7:30 PM||W 54-21|
|7:30 PM||W 56-51|
|7:30 PM||W 45-32|
|7:30 PM||W 50-35|
|7:30 PM||W 60-57|
|7:30 PM||L 51-52|
|7:30 PM||W 43-29|
|7:00 PM||W 51-35|
|6:00 PM||L 40-43|
|7:00 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
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