BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – They say that the truest test of one’s character are the things he or she does when no one is watching. But perhaps a truer test is how one reacts to overwhelming success.
On Monday night at ‘The Cage’, during the opening round of its own holiday tournament, the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team continued to play ‘humbly and hungry’, while routing Camp Hill 80-61. After netting 26 points in the opening period and opening a double-digit advantage, the Falcons were never seriously headed on their way to a season-high point output.
Quite simply, Cedar Crest continues to be faced with more levels of unprecedented hoops success.
The result extended Cedar Crest’s program-best start of a season to 9-0 and validated their current standing as the top Class AAAA squad in District Three – and one of the finest in the state. The Falcons will carry their unblemished mark into Tuesday’s night’s 7:30 p.m. championship tilt opposite Hershey, which edged Conrad Weiser 60-58 in last evening’s other opener.
“All that’s nice,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “It feels good. But this team goes one game at time. It’s just what they (his players) do. It’s their goals. That stuff takes care of itself. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.
“I have a veteran team,” continued Smith. “This is their expectations. It’s fun for you guys to come and watch them play games. But you should come out and see them get after each other in practice. They work hard.”
Coming off its longest layoff of the season, Cedar Crest opened the contest with a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end. Courtesy of five points from junior Evan Horn and a put back by Nick Miller, the Falcons netted the first seven points of the game and forced Camp Hill to take a timeout just over two minutes in.
Two minutes later, the Falcons ran off another nine unanswered points, thanks to a trio of three-point possessions – back-to-back treys from senior Josh Bucher and an old-fashioned three-point play by Horn. It was 18-4 Crest with 3:10 of the first quarter yet to be played.
In all, ten different Falcons played in a first quarter that ended with the home team ahead 26-11, and six scored.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Smith. “I was pretty nervous about the lay-off. I was nervous about how we were going to come out. But I remember getting some defensive stops, getting some baskets in transition. That got the game rolling and set the state for the rest of the night.”
With Smith substituting liberally all evening, Bucher paced Cedar Crest with 17 points, senior reserve Marq Kintzer registered a career-high 14 points and Horn notched a dozen. In all, 11 different Falcons found their way into the score book.
“We have a plan going into every game, but it’s also a feel thing,” said Smith of balancing playing time for a roster dripping with talent. “We try to ride who’s hot. But we’re nine-ten deep. Our first couple of rotations are pretty solid.
“I thought Josh Bucher started the game pretty well,” Smith continued. “He hit some jump shots and gave their kid (Deshawn Franklin) fits on the defensive end. Marq had an awesome game tonight. He just played great. He earned his minutes and validated them. When you bring Marq Kintzer off the bench seventh, eighth or ninth, that’s a good problem to have.”
Bucher extended Cedar Crest’s advantage to 30-13 with a driving lay-in 1:20 into the second quarter. A couple of Andrew Eberhart free throws 4:43 before the break made it 36-17 Cedar Crest.
The Falcons led 44-26 in the locker room.
“Depending on the game, we want to dictate what’s going on,” said Smith. “When we have the lead it’s attack, attack, attack. If we slow things down, we want to make them (the opponents) come out and play us, go by them and do our things.”
Cedar Crest opened the second half on a 7-2 run to push its lead to 51-28. Eberhart scored inside, Bucher knocked down another three-pointer and Miller stuck a two-point jump shot.
“It’s important,” said Smith of upholding the honor of the holiday tournament. “This is our first opportunity to win a championship as a group. They’re (his players) looking forward to the challenge of playing a good Hershey team. I’m excited about it, and I know they’re excited as well.”
With the lead hovering around 26 points, Smtih inserted his third wave of players – affectionately known at ‘The Cage’ as ‘The Bomb Squad’ – with five minutes remaining.
“I still think the offense needs to execute better, at times,” said Smith. “To win games in December, we’re good enough. To win games in March, we’ve got to get better. Defensively, I think we do a very good job. But we’re not going to rest on that either.”
Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|6:30 PM||W 62-44|
|5:00 PM||W 70-60|
|7:30 PM||W 50-48|
|7:30 PM||W 65-27|
|7:30 PM||W 68-53|
|7:30 PM||W 74-45|
|7:30 PM||W 57-48|
|7:30 PM||W 46-43|
|7:30 PM||W 80-61|