BY JEFF FALK
The rivalry that exists between Cedar Crest and Lebanon isn’t based in hatred or dislike. It’s about respect and pride.
And there may be no greater motivator than wanting to perform well in front of those you respect.
On Friday night at Lebanon High School, that particular kind of pride propelled the Falcon boys’ basketball team to an emotional 60-42 victory over the Cedars. After stumbling a bit at the beginning, the Falcons caught fire early in the second period then never relented.
Given the recent history of this rivalry and the teams’ records coming in, the outcome may have taken some by surprise. Cedar Crest moved to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
The loss was the first of the year for Lebanon High, now 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“This rivalry is awesome,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tommy Smith, himself a former Falcon player. “I was telling these guys all week how special this is. And they treated this week special. When we got to the locker room tonight they told me they could feel that it was special.
“I preached to them (his players) respect them (the Cedars) and respect the rivalry,” Smith continued. “‘You’ve got to go out there, take a deep breath and take it all in. It was fun. The looks on their faces after the game, you could tell it was awesome.”
“It’s crazy,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw, a one-time Cedar performer, of the rivalry. “It’s exciting to come in the gym and see people standing around the balcony. That only happens once a season. It’s emotional for the kids. It’s draining. We had a lot of upset people in the locker room – players, coaches, managers. It hurts all the way around.”
The turning point occurred early in the second stanza, when the Falcons began to heat up from downtown, and Lebanon turned ice cold. That moment coincided with Cedar big man Brandon Whitman picking up his third personal foul.
Facing a seven-point deficit, the Falcons outscored Lebanon 16-2 over the entire second quarter. Cedar Crest received scoring from five different sources, most notably four from Clay Benchard and a big three-point bomb from Killian Klopp.
Klopp drained two more treys after halftime, as the Falcons opened up a 33-22 bulge on a pull-up from Penchard with 5:40 of the third quarter remaining. Cedar Crest then scored three unanswered buckets at the end of the period – on a Logan Fullmer move, a short jumper from Penchard and a drive by Jon Donley.
“Scouting them on film, every game Lebanon got off to a fast start,” said Smith. “We got off to a slow start. I thought the big part of the game was when (Brandon) Whitman got into foul trouble. That’s when things started to go in our favor.”
“I looked at one time and we had six fouls,” said Speraw. “Three were on B-Whit and three were on (Josh) Spaulding. It hurt what we wanted to do offensively with B-Whit, and it hurt what we wanted to do defensively with Spaulding.
“He’s (Whitman) very unselfish in there,” Speraw continued. “You know when it (the ball) goes in it doesn’t always stay in. Our guards know that to get open shots, they need to get him the ball in there.”
Klopp knocked down a total of four three-pointers and his 17 points were a game-high. Penchard, a long and athletic slasher, supported him with 14 points, while Fullmer banged inside for 10.
Lebanon leading scorer Josh Lopez earned every one of his 14 points, and Whitman collected a dozen despite going six-for-11 at the foul line.
“I was extremely happy with the way we defended,” said Smith. “The key to the game was how we stopped them, especially (Josh) Lopez. I thought we rebounded well on the defensive end. If you do those things, they’ll pick you up on the offensive end.
“When you put a game plan together you take away the other team’s best player and make the others beat you,” Smith added. “We thought if we contained number 15 (Lopez) we had a shot. We thought we had a very good shot if we contained Lopez. He worked for all of those points.”
“The bottom line is that if you don’t make shots you don’t win games,” said Speraw. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen us shoot that poorly. We were getting the shots we wanted, we just weren’t knocking them down.
“I knew coming in that they (the Falcons) were much more athletic than last year,” added Speraw. “The second thing that worried me was Klopp going off. He broke the game open by himself.”
Lebanon disrupted Cedar Crest’s offensive flow early, and before the Falcons could settle in the Cedars were taking a 16-8 lead on a Drey Murray trey with 1:47 to go in the opening stanza. Lopez netted Lebanon’s first five points and had seven in the period.
“I thought we played to my expectations,” said Smith. “I don’t know if I expected that outcome. I’ve got six seniors. They work hard and they provide leadership. But it’s a rivalry, and I thought the emotions were a little bit high.”
“I thought we came out with great energy,” said Speraw. “We opened up a lead and then all of a sudden we couldn’t buy a basket.
“We were confident coming in,” continued Speraw. “We weren’t taking them for granted by any means. I knew they were better than advertised.”
In the final quarter, Cedar Crest’s lead reached 58-38 on a couple of charity tosses from Fullmer.
“It’s tough to say where we are,” said Smith. “C.D. East gave it to us pretty good. I don’t have a good idea of where we’re at. We played pretty well tonight. The league is loaded again. We’ve got to put a couple back-to-back and see what happens.”
“I think they’ll (his players) definitely use it as motivation, the fact that they lost to their rival,” said Speraw. “It’ll hurt for a while. We’ve got to go back and get the rest of the league.
“We’re pleased to be 3-1,” Speraw added. “We’d love to be 4-0. We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us.”