ANNVILLE – This season, there will be nights when the Lebanon boys’ basketball team wins games on its athleticism alone. But when the Cedars meet teams who can match their athleticism, they will be challenged to discover ways to prevail.
Last night was one of those nights.
On Saturday, in the championship game of its own tip-off tournament, Lebanon High fell to an Erie Strong Vincent club which was just as athletic, but more seasoned and tested. At Lebanon Valley College Gymnasium, the Colonels never trailed and methodically pulled away from the Cedars for a 61-40 triumph.
Now 1-1, Lebanon was guilty of turning the ball over time and time again and of surrendering way too many easy buckets. After enjoying a 29-22 halftime margin, Erie Strong Vincent, now 2-0, outscored LHS 18-10 in the third quarter to take a 15-point margin into the final eight minutes of action.
“We played bad,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “We played sloppy. Their (the Colonels’) pressure got to us a lot more than I anticipated. You can’t turn the ball over that many times and expect to be in the game at the end.
“They’re (his players) disappointed,” Speraw continued. “They thought this was a team we could play with. Mentally, we weren’t there throughout the game. They were disappointed with some of the effort.”
Lebanon didn’t tally a point for the first four minutes of the game, fell into a 6-0 hole and never caught up. The Cedars trailed 16-10 at the end of one, and 20-12 early in the second period.
Two charity tosses from senior point guard Drey Murray pulled Lebanon to within 24-20, with 3:02 left in the second quarter. But Erie Strong Vincent tallied five of the first half’s final seven points.
“We’ve got to become more mentally tough,” said Speraw. “It’s a weakness of our’s right now. There’s got to be an adjustment. We’ve got to learn to deal with adversity. Things aren’t always going to go our way.
Murray paced the Cedars with 14 points and long junior Blayde Reich came off the Cedar pines to register ten points. Murray and Jorian Gennetto represented Lebanon on the all-tournament team.
Erie Strong Vincent connected on one three-point field goal in the contest, but scored 26 two-point baskets, most of which came from in the paint or via lay-ins.
“We had breakdowns on defense,” said Speraw. “We didn’t transition out of our press well and we didn’t rotate well. That’s part of being mentally tough. We’ve got to react better.
“Obviously they’re (the Colonels) athletic,” continued Speraw. “They have 13 seniors. They have experience we don’t have right now. They battle through their mistakes, and they’re extremely well-coached.”
As the clock ticked down, Lebanon’s fortunes became more dire.
Erie Strong Vincent notched the first five points of the second half to up its advantage to 34-22. A Murray trey midway through the third period got the Cedars to within 40-26, but it was only a temporary bandage for an open wound.
“The difference from last night was the team we were playing,” said Speraw of his team’s season-opening victory over Elco. “In terms of experience, they were polar opposites. Erie Strong Vincent is experienced and athletic.
“Where we need to improve is mental toughness,” added Speraw. “It starts and ends there. Some guys have it. That’s the major question right now. We’re going to do whatever we can to get tougher, and to make better decisions.”