BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – Play to the level of your competition. Defend your home floor tenaciously. And never stop moving your feet on defense.
They say that once you qualify for the playoffs, you should stick with what got you there. So that’s exactly what the Lebanon boys’ basketball team did.
On Monday night, in a play-in game to the District Three Class AAAA tournament, Lebanon shrugged off the lingering effects of a Saturday loss to rival Cedar Crest in the Lancaster-Lebanon League final by playing ‘Cedar Basketball.’ Lebanon grabbed the lead for good just before halftime, employed tough man-to-man defense throughout and greatly benefitted from errant foul shooting from the other side, during a 42-35 home win over Waynesboro.
With the win, the 15th-seeded Cedars moved to 18-8 overall and into Wednesday’s Round of 16 at second-seeded and 22-2 Central York. The loss ended 18th-seeded Waynesboro’s campaign at 16-7.
“Obviously it was emotional for the seniors,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “This was the last game we were going to play on this court. It’s good to play a home game in the playoffs, because that means you had a good season.
“I thought they (his players) had a good sense of urgency,” continued Speraw. “Their intensity in the first quarter was great. I thought we played well right from the start.”
Lebanon shook off a technical foul early in the second half and used two free throws from sophomore Matty Lopez and a fast break lay-in by Mark Pyles to forge a 28-21 lead. The Cedars matched that seven-point advantage at 34-27, with 4:43 remaining, courtesy of an old-fashioned three-point play from Blayde Reich.
And that would prove to be the final basket the Cedars would score, as they nailed nine-of-12 foul shots in the second portion of the final period.
“I think every reporter this year asked about us winning ugly,” said Speraw. “It’s ugly to spectators, but when you watch it on film, it’s pretty to us because we know we’re playing good defense.
“I thought we were a little sluggish,” added Speraw. “I thought we came out of the gates well, and then we were sluggish. It (the district playoffs) was a new experience for them.”
During an uneven offensive performance, Lebanon High got 13 points from Reich. The Cedars converted 13 of 20 free throw attempts, while the Indians were an atrocious 10-for-23 at the charity stripe.
“He was on the bench a lot,” said Speraw of Reich. “We couldn’t go to Blayde for a long period of time. I’ve seen them (the Indians) play a couple of times. And I thought Mark (Pyles) did a nice job on 32.
“He’s (Matty Lopez) just been progressing at a fast rate all season long,” Speraw continued. “He’s really starting to understand the game.”
Thanks to a tough move in the paint from Lopez two seconds before the break, the Cedars led 18-17 at the intermission, despite enduring a 4:48 point-less streak in the middle of the second period. With Reich on the bench with foul difficulties, Waynesboro turned a five-point deficit into a 17-16 edge.
“I just told them to know our assignments,” said Speraw of his message during a second-quarter timeout. “We’ve got scouting assignments and we’ve got to know what we’re supposed to do, and who their players are. I just reassured them to keep playing defense.
“We had match-up advantages,” Speraw continued. “We had some match-up disadvantages. Our ‘Bigs’ had some tough assignments.”
The Cedars tallied seven of the game’s first nine points and opened an early five-point margin on a move in the paint by Reich. Then two minutes into the second stanza, reserve Luke Eisenshour made it 13-6 Cedars by working inside for a deuce.
“They’re tough,” said Speraw of the Indians. “They’re scrappy. They’re quick. They’re athletic. But I thought we did a great job of taking their shooters away.”