BY JEFF FALK
MALVERN – Too often, we are judged by our most recent bodies of work. But when we are, there’s a lot of good, positive stuff that gets over looked.
‘What have you done for me lately?’.
On Saturday afternoon at Great Valley High School, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs, a solid Lebanon boys’ basketball season came tumbling down, during an 81-41 loss to Plymouth-Whitemarsh. With two regulars missing in action, the Cedars encountered difficulties dealing with Plymouth-Whitemash’s trapping three-quarter pressure, suffered turnover after turnover, slipped into a 20-point halftime hole and never came close to recovering in the second half.
The season-ending loss was Lebanon High’s fourth straight, and sixth in its last seven outings – five of which were playoff setbacks. The eighth-place finisher out of District Three, the Cedars concluded their campaign at 16-11.
Lebanon tallied 41 points or fewer in three of those contest. The Cedars had started the season 9-1.
Plymouth-Whitemarsh, the District One champion, improved to 26-1 overall.
“Yeah, I think our season was a success,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win a championship of some sort. We won a section title (Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). We would’ve like to have made a run in leagues. We would’ve like to have made a run in districts. But at the end of the day, the kids were playing basketball and having fun.
“I don’t think so (that the season will be remembered by how it ended),” Speraw continued. “Obviously we were undermanned today. Maybe with those kids (Matty Lopez and Alan Escoto) we have a better team today. But we’re a better program because we made the decision we made. I’m proud of the 12 kids who were here.”.
Lebanon’s active and packed in zone kept it in the game for about ten minutes of game clock. Facing an eight-point deficit, Cedar junior Dante Vargas drilled a three-point to close the opening stanza, and then another to open the second, and help LHS close to within 16-14 of the lead.
“They’re (the Colonials) tough,” said Speraw. “We knew we were going to have to play close to perfect to have a chance. And they were not going to have to play near perfect. Obviously, we didn’t do that. The turnovers hurt us. You can’t do that against good teams. You can’t do that in the state playoffs.
“The more I watched film of them, the more I thought we had a chance to play with them,” continued Speraw. “But we couldn’t turn the ball over. We had close to 20 turnovers in the first half. We had more turnovers than shots in the first half.”
The outcome was decided during a six-minute stretch in the second period, when the Cedars had a difficult time getting the ball over half court – much less running their half-court offense. The result was a 15-0 Plymouth-Whitemarsh run that turned a two-point edge into a 31-14 bulge.
The Colonials led 38-18 at the break.
“The message at halftime was ‘Take care of the ball’,” said Speraw. “The second message at halftime was ‘Take care of the ball’. We put ourselves in bad spots, time and time again. We just didn’t execute.
“You’ve got to make clean passes,” added Speraw. “You’ve got to get the ball in the middle. You’ve got to attack it from the back side. We just didn’t play smart against it. Too many times we picked up the ball in bad spots.”
The Cedars’ scoring attack was fronted by Shaq Ortiz’s 11 points, while Vargas canned ten. Lopez and Escoto were not part of the Lebanon bench, and Speraw characterized their non-participation as disciplinary in nature.
Colonial star Xzavier Malone lit up Lebanon for 30 points. Lebanon scored more three-point baskets (seven) than it did two-pointers, and the Cedars were outscored 57-20 inside the arc.
“Our goal was just to be in the game,” said Speraw. “I told our guys,’Let’s compete’. Pretty much, ‘Play smart and play hard’. And the kids never quit. In the fourth quarter they were still running the floor and making the extra pass.”
If the outcome wasn’t decided by halftime, then Plymouth-Whitemarsh took care of it by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter. The Colonials’ lead reached 65-23 early in the fourth quarter, before the action deteriorated into one-on-one play from both sides.
“I thought we lacked a vocal leader in the locker room,” said Speraw. “You’re not going to have that every year. You can’t mold personalities into something they are not. These three seniors (Danny Caricabeur, Logan Blouch and Justin Baker) were leaders in their own right. They led by example. They led through character. We’ll take that any time.
“Their character was incredible,” concluded Speraw. “I couldn’t ask for more from them. I’m going to miss them.”
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