NEFFSVILLE – Fortunate and deserving.
Sometimes when you work hard, do the right things and pay attention to details, fortune follows you. You can make your own good fortune.
You can call the Lebanon boys’ basketball team ‘fortunate’. You can call the Cedars ‘deserving’. Just make sure you include ‘champion’ somewhere in the conversation, as well.
On Saturday evening at Manheim Township, Lebanon edged Hempfield by the slimmest of margins, 41-40 to claim the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship. The Cedars emerged with the well-earned win when the Black Knights’ Ryan Hilton went one-for-two at the free throw line with 1.6 seconds remaining, and Lebanon stars Luke Collins and Isaiah Rodriguez fouled out and on the bench.
A foul shot from Marquis Ferreira with 14 second left had given the Cedars a 41-39 edge and proved to be the winning point, as Lebanon, now 17-3, captured its ninth L-L League championship overall, and first in 17 years. The Cedars, co-champions of Section Two, were situated seventh in the latest District Three power rankings, and could be in line to host a playoff game in the upcoming Class AAAAAA tournament.
The setback dropped Hempfield, co-champions of Section One, to 12-4 overall.
“We made enough mistakes not to win that game,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “But we made enough good plays to win it. The most important thing was we never quit.
“It’s special because it’s a Lancaster-Lebanon League championship,” Speraw continued. “It’s special because of how this group of kids fought. It’s special because it’s a great group of kids.”
“I’m very happy we won,” said Collins. “I was nervous at the end, but my team pulled through. I know that the last time we won a league championship was 2004. This means a lot to us.”
Before being disqualified for fouls, Rodriguez tallied five straight Cedar points to give Lebanon a 40-36 lead, with 44 seconds to go. Three free throws from Ferreira 1:23 into final quarter snapped a tie and had given Lebanon a 35-32 advantage.
After he had made the first of his two free throws and Speraw had called a timeout, Hilton missed the second.
“If we’re the ones shooting them (foul shots), I’m hoping we make them,” said Speraw. “If they’re the ones shooting them, I’m hoping they miss them.
“Obviously, I’m hoping they miss it and we get the rebound,” added Speraw. “We had to make sure we got the board. But you hate to see a kid like that (Hilton) miss it. He was the one who kept them in the game.”
“I was hoping he missed it,” said Collins. “But I thought it was a smart move by Coach to take a timeout. It was different for me. That never happened to me before (fouling out at the end of an important game). But I just had to keep hoping and cheering. We won. We pulled through.”
Using a 3-2 half-court trap, Hempfield notched six points in the first 1:02 of the second half to shave Lebanon’s 12-point intermission lead in half, to 24-18. But thanks to five points by Collins and three free throws from Rodriguez, the Cedars closed the third quarter with a 32-27 margin.
“Going to that zone, they (the Black Knights) got some turnovers and easy baskets,” said Speraw. “What you need to to is get it into the middle of floor, and then attack. When we got it to Isaiah, we started attacking, and that was the difference in the game.
“I knew that lead wasn’t going to last, but I hoped that it would,” continued Speraw. “I knew they (the Black Knights) were going to make runs at us. I just hoped the kids could weather the runs. It’s resiliency. It’s the type of kids we have at Lebanon. No one put their heads down. Everybody was ready to go. We knew we were going to hold on.”
“They made that run at us in the second half when they went to that 3-2 trap,” said Collins. “A couple of teams had done that against us, and it was smart of them to go to it. What you’re supposed to do is reverse the ball really quick, and then give it to Mohawk (Rodriguez). He turns and dishes it, and it’s a lay-up.”
With Rodriguez tallying 15 points, Collins contributing 14 points and Ferriera adding ten, the three combined to score 39 of Lebanon’s total of 41. The Cedars converted ten of their 16 charity tosses, compared to the Black Knights’ six-for-12 foul shooting.
“It feels great,” said Speraw. “I was here (the league championship game) twice before, and came up short both times. It’s something we talk about with the kids from Day One. We talk about putting number up on the banner. We talk about the guys who came before us. But it’s about the kids. I couldn’t be more happy for them. They deserve it.”
“My job is to run the show,” said Collins. “Control everybody, and see what defense the other team is in. I’m pretty much a coach on the floor.”
Lebanon dictated the first-half play, then imposed its will on Hempfield.
With a pair of three-pointers from Collins and an inside bucket by Rodriguez, the Cedars netted eight of the game’s first 11 points. Lebanon also tallied the final six points of the opening quarter, on old-fashioned three-point plays by Collins and Rodriguez, and carried a 16-8 margin into the second.
“We played well in the first half,” said Speraw. “But I knew it wasn’t over. I knew they (the Black Knights) were coming for us. No, I would not let them (his players) be over confident. Coach (Danny) Walck’s too good of a coach and Hempfield’s too good of a team.”
The Cedars continued to press the issue in the second stanza. With Demetrius Matthew stroking a jumper, Ferreira converting a driving lay-in and Rodriguez putting the ball on the floor, Lebanon closed out the first half with a 6-2 spurt and a 24-12 locker room lead.
at Lower Dauphin
at Manheim Township
at Conestoga Valley
at Cedar Crest
at Manheim Township
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
2017: Lancaster Catholic
2019: Manheim Township
2020: Cedar Crest
|13||Central Dauphin East||11-||7-||0||0.659578||0.712435||0.594975||13.75||156.30||5.55||106.40|
|17||J P McCaskey||7-||7-||0||0.631573||0.622302||0.642903||8.65||148.80||5.25||82.65|
|25||York County School of Technology||2-||16-||0||0.299243||0.117318||0.521595||2.10||164.85||15.80||151.20|