BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – There is something to be said for playing to the level of one’s competition, in the postseason.
There’s also something to be said for establishing one’s own level of play and consistently meeting it, during the regular season.
On Monday night, the Lebanon boys’ basketball team missed out on a golden opportunity to win a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two championship when it was beaten on its own home floor by Solanco, 48-45. After trailing almost the entire way, Lebanon tied the game at 44 in the middle of the final stanza.
But the Cedars managed only a lone free throw from Felix Kortright over the contest’s final 5:08. Lebanon High did get two pretty good Logan Blouch looks at ‘threes’ in the final ten seconds – one that would’ve given it the lead and the other that would’ve tied it – but both drew only iron.
A positive result would’ve given Lebanon, now 14-6 overall and 11-4 in the circuit, its first section title in three seasons. Lebanon’s next opportunity to clinch it will come Tuesday, in its section finale at Garden Spot.
The Cedars, who have clinched a spot in Saturday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League tournament, are currently sitting 11th in the latest District Three Class AAAA power rankings.
The outcome moved Solanco to 10-11 on the season and 6-9 in the section. Lebanon had beaten the same Solanco outfit 63-45 on December 23rd in Quarryville.
“It is the case at times,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw of playing to the level of the competition. “I don’t think Solanco is a bad team by any means. They play people tough. It just comes down to focus, and not putting the ball in the hole.
“I think we are the best team in the section,” Speraw continued. “But you can’t prove it some nights. You’ve got to prove it every night.”
After trailing by as many as a dozen points in the second quarter, the Cedars made a number of runs at the Golden Mules. Only their final one allowed them to pull even with Solanco.
Lebanon was down 42-35 early in the fourth period, before ripping off a 9-2 spurt. Blouch ignited it with a three-pointer. Allan Escoto scored twice inside, Shaq Ortiz deposited a bucket and the Cedar defense held the Mules scoreless for a 2:41 stretch.
“My message after the game was basically that we’re not going to win any games in the playoffs like that,” said Speraw. “I didn’t think we were 100 percent focused. I can take missed shots. But I can’t take lack of effort.
“I feel we always play hard,” continued Speraw. “Tonight I didn’t think we did the whole game. We did at times, and when we did, we played well. But we must have missed 15 lay-ups.”
Facing a nine-point halftime hole, the Cedars began the third quarter with a flurry out of their full-court pressure defense.
Lebanon tallied the first seven points of the third period, on five points from Escoto and a Justin Baker bucket, to move to within 28-26 of the lead. But later the Cedars were hit by a 7-0 Golden Mule run and slipped into a similar 38-30 chasm.
“I thought our energy coming out in the third quarter was great,” said Speraw. “We came out and got it even. But we could never get a lead. And then we’d miss shots. It didn’t seem like we had a lot of energy all night, except what we spent in the third quarter.
“I think the shots we got were good shots,” added Speraw. “We didn’t shoot well from three-point range, by any means. I don’t think it was the zone. It was not making shots.”
Escoto recorded a total of 14 points, but was the only Cedar to reach double digits.
“I think so right now,” said Speraw, when asked if the Cedars need to win the section for the season to be a success. “I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t. It’s obviously one of our goals at the start of the season. It would’ve been nice to win it at home. Now we’ve got to win it on the road, at Garden Spot, against a team that has nothing to lose.
“You would think we would’ve been focused,” Speraw added. “Honestly, I don’t know why. It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing for them (his players). Now we’ve put ourselves in a tough spot.”
When the Golden Mules scored the first two baskets of the second period, Lebanon was staring up at a 19-7 deficit. But the Cedars got it going, in the form of five Felix Kortright points, Baker’s conventional three-point play and two Escoto hoops, to pull within 23-19.
“I don’t think we did terrible defensively,” said Speraw. “We missed some rotations when we doubled. Overall, I don’t think we did bad. But we could’ve rebounded better.”
Lebanon was outscored by Solanco 15-7 over the first eight minutes of action. Six of those Cedar points came courtesy of treys from Danny Caricabeur and Matty Lopez.
“I’ll take him any day of the week, knocking down that shot,” said Speraw of Blouch’s three-point looks in the waning seconds. “Tonight, it just didn’t go. But I’m completely OK with those shots.
“Danny knocked one down and Matty knocked one down,” Speraw continued. “Obviously Logan and Dante (Vargas) are two of our bigger three-point shooters. But across the board, we didn’t make them.”
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Section Two Standings
2015-16 Lebanon Boys’ Basketball Results
|7:30 PM||W 69-56|
|7:30 PM||L 60-61|
|7:30 PM||W 45-32|
|7:30 PM||W 74-56|
|7:30 PM||W 75-46|
|7:30 PM||W 60-45|
|7:30 PM||W 68-51|
|7:30 PM||W 63-45|
|3:30 PM||W 53-28|
|7:00 PM||W 45-37|
|1:00 PM||L 40-50|
|7:30 PM||L 61-64|
|7:30 PM||W 64-57|
|7:30 PM||W 62-56|
|7:30 PM||L 71-82|
|7:30 PM||L 32-44|
|7:30 PM||W 58-45|
|7:30 PM||W 60-43|
|7:30 PM||W 72-69|
|7:30 PM||L 45-48|
|7:30 PM||Garden Spot High School|
|7:30 PM||Hershey High School|
PIAA District Three
Class AAAA Power Rankings