LEBANON – It’s not always about rainbows and unicorns and sugar-plum fairies. Lebanon isn’t that kind of boys’ basketball.
The Cedars are more about character and substance than they are glitz and glitter. Guess which approach is better suited for the playoffs.
On Monday night at Lebanon High School, the Cedars’ grit, heart and experience served them well in a 52-50 home triumph over Ephrata, in the opening round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League postseason. After trailing by double digits in the middle of the third quarter, Lebanon gained the lead late in the same period, then made enough plays down the stretch to come away with advancement.
Senior guard Camryn Shaak’s three-pointer with 1:25 to go gave Lebanon the lead for good, and teammate Sabu Pereya’s free throw a minute later provided a wee bit of insurance. But the deciding factor down the stretch may have been the Cedars’ frantic, in-your-face man-to-man defense, which shut out the Mounts over the critical, final 1:43 – including harassing Ephrata into an air ball on its last possession.
The victory sent the Section One champion Cedars to 19-4 overall and into Wednesday’s L-L League semifinal against Section Three champ Lancaster Mennonite, which took care of Manheim Township 77-70 in another quarterfinal. That tilt is slated for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Cedar Crest.
Lebanon has now won 18 of its last 20 outings.
Ephrata, the third-place finisher out of Section Two and an old Cedar foe, fell to 16-8 on the season.
“We definitely didn’t have them all the way,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “We didn’t play well by any stretch of the imagination. But we did what we needed to do.
“I don’t know if I learned anything,” continued Speraw. “I know I have tough kids. It was ‘how bad do you want it’. I think it was a basket here, a basket there that built our confidence.”
“Last year I was out with an injury, so I didn’t get to experience the L-Ls,” said Shaak. “I didn’t want to go one-and-done. I didn’t want to go out like that. I’m a competitor. I want to go out with a bang.”
Facing a 41-38 hole, the Cedars got a base-line move from Shaak and a hard ‘take’ to the cup by Luis Aquino-Rios to assume a 42-41 lead, with 5:03 to go. A Shaak free throw with 2:04 remaining gave the Cedars a 48-47 edge, 50 seconds after Shaq Ortiz’s three-pointer had tied the game.
“I thought the difference was getting some hands on balls from our pressure, and knocking down free throws at the end,” said Speraw. “Just having good offensive possessions and making good decisions.
“There’s only so much gas in the tank,” added Speraw. “As the game gets more intense, it gets easier to turn it on. We started making lay-ups, and we could get into our press a little more.”
Down 31-21, five minutes into the second half, Lebanon High was in desperate need of someone to step up. Enter Shaak.
He notched 11 straight Cedar points – on a trio of three-pointers and a lay-in – and Lebanon pulled to within 33-32 of the Mounts. A minute later, Pereya turned a steal into a lay-up and a 36-35 Lebanon lead, its first since 6-4.
“It (the Cedars’ third-period run) was huge,” added Speraw. “We needed a lift. We needed to get some good passing. We started to get better shots. It was a matter of realizing we couldn’t get it all back at once. It had to be two or three points at a time.”
“I remembered that we needed a little momentum,” said Shaak. “I knocked down some threes. We got some turnovers and got some baskets inside. We definitely turned the game around.”
With a total of four three-pointers, a couple of deuces and four-for-six foul shooting, Shaak poured in a game-high 20 points. The Cedars outscored the Mounts 17-3 at the free throw line.
“He played really well,” said Speraw of Shaak. “He got his hands on a lot of balls defensively. He hit some threes, handled the ball and did a little bit of everything offensively. He’s a competitor. When things are going well offensively, it opens up things for everyone.
“Luis (Aquino-Rios) can play better,” Speraw added. “He knows that. The one thing I know about him is that he’ll bounce back.”
“We definitely did not play our best game,” said Shaak. “We came out flat. Speraw came in at halftime and he let us have it. He definitely woke us up.”
“Everybody’s out for the same prize, so it’s going to be intense,” said Speraw. “It’s going to be a battle. You’ve got to come to play. Tonight there were a lot of things we needed to do better.
“I don’t think we were there mentally,” continued Speraw. “We missed a bunch of lay-ups and didn’t hit a lot of ‘threes’. You have to expect it’s going to change throughout the game.”
While the Mounts were shooting the ball well, Lebanon was missing from point-blank range. A pair of Dante Vargas free throws gave the Cedars that 6-4 lead, but Ephrata closed the opening stanza on a 10-1 run, and with a 14-7 advantage.
“They played extremely hard,” said Speraw of the Mounts. “I can’t think of a team across the board who plays harder than they do. Their kids run a good system. They played a heck of a game. To come into our place and have us down double-digits in the second half, much respect to them.”
“It was fun playing against them (the Mounts),” said Shaak. “They played great. They’re fundamentally sound and well-coached. They gave it to us. They scared us.”
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2016-17 Lebanon Boys’ Basketball Results
|7:30 PM||W 52-39|
|7:30 PM||L 42-58|
|7:30 PM||L 50-54|
|7:30 PM||W 64-52|
|7:30 PM||W 68-58|
|7:30 PM||W 79-56|
|6:00 PM||W 67-50|
|6:00 PM||W 68-44|
|5:30 PM||L 73-75|
|7:30 PM||W 60-41|
|7:30 PM||W 69-44|
|7:30 PM||L 47-50|
|2:30 PM||W 55-54|
|7:30 PM||W 53-48|
PIAA District Three
Class AAAAAA Power Rankings
|6||Central Dauphin East||14-||8-||0||0.692168||0.736842||0.637566|
|16||J P McCaskey||6-||14-||0||0.539183||0.414365||0.691739|
|21||Red Lion Area||4-||18-||0||0.417238||0.238342||0.635890|
|22||York County School Of Technology||4-||17-||0||0.335463||0.185464||0.518795|
Past Lancaster-Lebanon League
Boys’ Basketball Champions
1976: Cedar Crest
1991: Conestoga Valley
2003: Lancaster Catholic
2009: Conestoga Valley
2014: Cedar Crest
2015: Cedar Crest