BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – When they came, they came in waves of guards.
When they came, it was off the bounce.
And when they came, it was early and often.
On Friday night, during the opening round of the 18th annual Lebanon Booster Club Tip-Off Tournament, Cedar Crest’s 87-63 triumph over Elco was all about it taking the Raiders off the dribble, or perhaps Elco’s inability to guard the Falcons’ guards. Cedar Crest constructed an early double-digit advantage and refused to relent before applying the knockout blow in the third quarter.
Guard scoring accounted for 51 of the Falcons’ 87 total points. And a similar number of points resulted from Cedar Crest players taking the ball hard to the hole.
For its efforts, the Falcons earned the right to play for the championship of the event. Cedar Crest will take on host and rival Lebanon High on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The 6 p.m. opener will feature Elco going up against Red Lion for the consolation prize.
“It’s been a focus of ours the whole off season,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith of getting to the rim. “We’ve put an emphasis on it. We want to attack with purpose. We want to attack to score. Last year we were attacking to pass.
“I’ve got guards who are tough,” continued Smith. “I love them. We’re really going to get after teams.”
“You think about the pressure they’re (the Falcons) putting on the ball,” said Elco head coach Brad Conners. “Those turnovers put a ton of pressure on your defense. It’s hard to get back on turnovers. Sure our defense struggled, but sometimes it’s not just the defense. I thought our offense had a little to do with that.
“They (the Falcons) took us out of everything we wanted to do,” added Conners. “Those didn’t look like the sets we ran in practice. We were trying to slow it down and get a hold of the game.”
If the result wasn’t decided in the first eight minutes of action, certainly the tone was set for it.
Cedar Crest led 15-6 on a Blake Thomson free throw 4:21 in, then registered the final four points of the opening period – on drive by Dylan Miller and a stick back from Adam Loehr. And when Jaiden Melendez opened the second stanza with a couple of Falcon foul shots, Cedar Crest had itself a 25-9 bulge.
“It was obvious from the tip,” said Smith of his club’s eagerness to play. “I thought you could see it. This is the youngest team I’ve had in a while, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
“I thought we played well,” Smith continued. “We really executed the game plan in the first half. I told the kids we played a good half. We left off the gas pedal a little bit. But for the first game with a young squad, we’ll take the win.”
“It absolutely set the tone,” said Conners of the Falcons’ opening volley. “It was a little bit of a concern. With the tip-off, I thought our kids would get out and run with them. The ball pressure hurt us and it affected the entire first half. And I thought the pressure built up.
“We’ve had some really good practices,” added Conners. “I expected us to come in here and win the tournament. We’ve got some inexperienced kids playing in spots.”
While the Raiders’ struggles with turnovers and offensive execution continued, Cedar Crest became more and more opportunistic. The Falcons hit Elco with a devastating 15-4 blow during a three-and-a-half minute stretch of the second period to extend their lead to 42-19.
Tate Seyfert had seven of those Cedar Crest points, but five other teammates – Cole Laney, Logan Horn, Melendez, Thomson and Loehr – also contributed. The Falcons carried a 45-25 lead to the locker room.
“I’m not sure we ever did, not under me,” said Smith of his side’s point total. “I thought we shot well tonight. We forced some turnovers and got some easy ones.
“I don’t think with a young team we can do that (work clock),” Smith added. “We need to win possessions. Right now, we want to have good possessions, no matter what the score is.”
“When that happens. you’ve just got to get back to the basics,” said Conners of his team’s early deficit. “Getting stops. Getting in front of the ball. Catching our breath and taking care of small things.
“The kids were extremely excited to play Cedar Crest,” continued Conners. “This was a chance. They had high expectations. We have some experienced leadership in the locker room.”
Cedar Crest opened the second half with a 9-1 run that included baskets from Miller, three points by Thomson and a hoop from Laney. The Falcons enjoyed a pair of 29-point bulges, 58-29 on a couple of charity tosses from Miller and 60-31 on an inside maneuver by Laney.
“With a young team, my goals are probably on a smaller scale than their’s (his players’),” said Smith. “I want to get better everyday, every practice. We want to put ourselves in position for the postseason.”
“I’m just looking at us right now,” said Conners. “Our defense was extremely poor. I thought with the lights on, in a big gym, in front of a big crowd, we had some nerves. I think in the first half, they (the Falcons) took seven jumpers and scored 45 points.
“They really didn’t surprise with the stuff they ran,” Conners continued. “I thought the ball pressure had a negative effect on us, on both ends of the floor.”
Laney paced the Falcons’ balanced attack with 18 points, while Miller collected 15 and Melendez recorded 11. Mason Bossert tallied 18 Raider points, teammate Ryan Eshleman went for 13 points and Devin Stoops knocked down ten.
Cedar Crest tallied a total of 34 field goals. Elco drained ten three-pointers, but made just seven two-pointers.
“It was good for the county,” said Smith. “(Lebanon head coach, Speraw) Tim and I have been talking. We need to play each other more than once. Playing Elco was a great opportunity for us.
“They’re (the Raiders) tough,” Smith continued. “The Bossert kids is as good a shooter as I’ve ever coached against. He earned every point tonight. With he and Eshleman, they have some other athletes out there. And I think they’re a young team.”
“Some of it was expected,” said Conners. “We’re better. We’ll settle down. We have some young kids who can play.”
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2015-16 Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|12/05||@CD East||4:30 PM||W 74-68|
|12/11 *||Solanco||7:30 PM||W 58-38|
|12/14 *||@Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|12/16 *||Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 52-46|
|12/18 *||@McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 55-84|
|12/19||Central York||7:30 PM||L 69-75|
|12/21 *||Hempfield||7:30 PM||W 58-53|
|12/23 *||Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||W 59-49|
|12/28 #||Conrad Weiser||7:30 PM||W 70-44|
|12/29 #||Camp Hill||7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|01/02||Central Dauphin||7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|01/05 *||@Warwick||7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|01/08 *||Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 66-53|
|01/11 *||@Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|01/13 *||Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||W 66-46|
|01/15 *||@Lebanon||7:30 PM||W 44-32|
|01/19 *||McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 42-63|
|01/21 *||@Hempfield||7:30 PM||L 59-63|
|01/27 *||@Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||L 53-68|
|01/28 *||Warwick||7:30 PM||W 74-46|
|01/30||@Lower Dauphin||7:30 PM||W 69-54|
|02/02 *||@Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 63-51|
|02/06 #||@Lampeter-Strasburg||7:00 PM||W 59-52|
|02/10 #||Lancaster Mennonite||8:00 PM||W 58-56|
|02/11 #||McCaskey||7:00 PM||L 47-54|
|02/17 #||Hempfield||7:00 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
|12/04 #||@Muhlenberg||6:00 PM||W 78-35|
|12/05 #||@Lebanon||7:30 PM||W 61-60|
|12/09||Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 69-61|
|12/11 *||Lebanon Catholic||7:30 PM||W 69-55|
|12/14 *||@Columbia||7:30 PM||W 80-59|
|12/16 *||Lancaster Catholic||7:30 PM||W 67-51|
|12/18 *||@Cocalico||7:30 PM||W 61-57|
|12/21 *||Lampeter-Strasburg||7:30 PM||L 42-62|
|12/23 *||Manheim Central||7:30 PM||W 72-50|
|12/28 #||@Mahanoy Area||6:00 PM||W 70-42|
|12/29 #||@Nativity BVM||7:30 PM||W 74-44|
|01/05 *||@Northern Lebanon||7:30 PM||W 83-57|
|01/08 *||Donegal||7:30 PM||L 68-70|
|01/09||Tulpehocken||7:30 PM||W 72-30|
|01/11 *||@Pequea Valley||7:30 PM||W 80-54|
|01/13 *||Annville-Cleona||7:30 PM||W 61-30|
|01/15 *||@Lancaster Mennonite||7:30 PM||W 65-47|
|01/19 *||Cocalico||7:30 PM||W 64-50|
|01/22 *||@Lampeter-Strasburg||4:00 PM||L 60-70|
|01/28 *||Northern Lebanon||7:30 PM||W 72-52|
|01/29 *||@Manheim Central||7:30 PM||W 52-47|
|02/02 *||@Donegal||7:30 PM||W 68-60|
|02/06 #||@McCaskey||6:00 PM||L 55-71|
|02/16 #||Steel-High||7:00 PM||W 80-58|
|02/19 #||@Eastern York||6:00 PM||L 63-64|
|02/22||Berks Catholic||6:00 PM||W 63-52|
|02/25||@Gettysburg||6:30 PM||W 74-66|
|03/04 #||Neumann-Goretti||7:30 PM||Archbishop Ryan High School|