BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – They never planned to go undefeated.
They never thought they were invincible.
So in a way, they knew this day could come.
It wasn’t a matter of the odds catching up to the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball team. It was more a case of the competition catching up to the Falcons.
On Tuesday evening at Hershey’s Giant Center, Cedar Crest endured its first setback of the season, a 42-38 loss to Central Dauphin in the semifinals of the District Three Class AAAAAA tournament. What the outcome ultimately came down to was the Falcons’ inability to solve the Rams’ active 3-2 zone defense.
Following 26 consecutive victories, the defeat relegated the Falcons to Thursday’s 8 p.m. Class AAAAAA third-place contest opposite Central York. Second-seeded Cedar Crest, champions of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and its Section One, had already qualified for the PIAA postseason.
Last night marked Cedar Crest’s third straight appearance in District Three’s big-school semifinal.
Central Dauphin, the third seed, moved to 21-3 and into Friday night’s District Three Class AAAAAA title tilt against top-seeded Cumberland Valley.
“My message to the girls was, ‘Keep your heads up,’ ” said Cedar Crest head coach Jim Donmoyer. “There’s no shame losing to that team. There’s a reason they’ve won 21 games.
“Good teams lose, and good teams get up off the floor,” continued Donmoyer. “Everybody’s happy when you’re winning, and nobody’s happy when you don’t. But we’re proud of the kids. It’s been a phenomenal season up to this point.”
Cedar Crest struggled through long scoring droughts throughout, while searching for answers to the Rams’ zone defense. Perhaps the most damaging was a 5:32 job in the middle of the fourth quarter, when Central Dauphin was taking the lead for good.
Senior Ariel Jones had given the Falcons a 33-29 margin with a three-pointer 11 seconds into the final stanza, but Central Dauphin used the Crest dry spell to tally ten straight points. Gracen Donmoyer put an end to the Falcon drought with a three-pointer that pulled the Falcons to within 37-36 with 2:17 to go, but the Rams notched the next three points to make it a two-possession game late.
“No, they’re not the best team we’ve played,” said Donmoyer of the Rams. “That’s no disrespect to Central Dauphin. I just think we played some better teams. I think Northern Lebanon is better. They’d be one-two. Them and Northern Lebanon.
“I just think we wasted opportunities,” added Donmoyer. “The first quarter we played bad. After that, we played OK. We had a heck of a second quarter. We played OK from the second quarter on. In the fourth quarter, we just could’t get over the hump.”
Up 30-24 courtesy of an Alyssa Austin three-pointer, the Falcons missed out on a couple of opportunities to extend their lead even further late in the third period. And that was after Cedar Crest had suffered through a 3:39 score-less span to open the second half, one which was ended by a Raven Morgan inside move that made it 23-19.
“We knew they (the Rams) were going to be in a 3-2 zone,” said Donmoyer. “Our offense wasn’t too good. We wanted to get the ball in the middle, make them play the post and dump it to the guards.
“We normally give up 38 points. We average 55,” Donmoyer added. “We didn’t push the ball. From the second quarter on, we attacked it the way we should. But the shots didn’t fall.”
Central Dauphin’s active zone curtailed Jones’ penetration and Austin’s work around the rim. Austin tallied eight points and Jones scored seven.
Cedar Crest made eight three-point field goals, but just seven two-pointers and the Falcons were shut out at the free throw line. Central Dauphin drained 17 of its 22 foul shots.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” said Donmoyer. “We missed some lay-ups. I just wanted a lead. We can hold the ball and shoot foul shots too. If we would’ve got the lead,they wouldn’t have been playing zone.”
The Falcons appeared to be in pretty good shape at halftime, up 21-15 thanks to a 19-4 run through the second period. Cedar Crest drained five three-pointers during the frame.
Cedar Crest opened the second quarter on a 13-2 spurt fueled by six points from Rachel Witherite, three by Austin and a hoop apiece from Jones and Jade Rolon. The Falcons closed the first half with three-pointers by Rolon and Donmoyer.
“Honestly, we play it one game at a time,” said Donmoyer. “I said to them (his players) before the game, “We’re 1-0. They’re 1-0. You’ve got to be 3-0 to win districts. If you want to play Friday, you’ve got to win tonight.’ I truly believe some things didn’t go our way that usually go our way.”
The Falcons scored five seconds into the contest, when Jones drove the opening tap for a deuce. But Cedar Crest didn’t score during the rest of the first quarter, as Central Dauphin rattled off 11 unanswered points.
“It’s like Groundhog day. We lost last year’s game in the last minutes,” said Donmoyer. “We’ve been in the district semis three years in-a-row. They (the seniors) as a class have won 90 games. We have two really good players. It means a lot for their class. It means a lot for the school.
“I thought we played hard tonight, as they (the Rams) did too,” Donmoyer continued. “We missed some lay-ups. They go, and it’s a tied game. We didn’t get it done.”
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2016-17 Cedar Crest Girls’ Basketball Schedule
|6:00 PM||W 61-44|
|7:30 PM||W 55-43|
Wilson West Lawn
|7:30 PM||W 66-48|
|7:30 PM||W 63-47|
|7:30 PM||W 65-47|
|7:30 PM||W 41-27|
|6:00 PM||W 52-34|
|7:30 PM||W 42-26|
|7:30 PM||W 66-47|
|7:30 PM||W 54-40|
|7:30 PM||W 55-21|
|7:30 PM||W 69-44|
|7:30 PM||W 59-33|
|7:30 PM||W 62-42|
|7:30 PM||W 51-28|
|7:30 PM||W 57-27|
|7:30 PM||W 51-28|
|7:30 PM||W 54-41|
|7:30 PM||W 53-44|
|7:30 PM||W 57-37|
|7:30 PM||W 50-30|
|7:00 PM||W 47-38|
|5:00 PM||Giant Center, Hershey|
LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cedar Crest: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA)
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)