BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS BY LORI MESSERSMITH
SOUTH LEBANON – A reserve led it in scoring. Another substitute was named to the all-tournament team. A toss-up, the Most Valuable Player award ultimately went to a defensive stalwart.
The selection committee did a pretty good job of spreading around the individual honors at last night’s Cedar Crest Christmas Tournament. But when it came time to accept the championship trophy, that privilege was handled by the entire team.
On Friday night, a deep, unselfish and balanced Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team won the championship of its own holiday tourney by downing a quality Carlisle club 62-51 in the title tilt. The Falcons employed its unrelenting depth and team play to wear down the Thunderin’ Herd, outscoring it 20-15 over the final eight minutes of action.
The Christmas championship was the first in six years for the Falcons, who improved to 9-1 on the year. The loss left Carlisle 6-3 overall.
“It’s a huge advantage,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith of his club’s competent depth. “A good quality team has seven quality players. We can go 12 deep, 15 if we have to. (Senior Andrew) Eudy had two fouls and we were buying time. That’s what happens when you have great kids and they give a good effort.
“We’re enjoying it, we are,” Smith continued. “But it’s tough. We want these kids to stay focused. We’ve also told them to embrace what’s going on. We tell them, ‘let’s enjoy the process’.”
After the Falcons had taken a 32-28 margin to the break, Carlisle opened the second half by notching three unanswered buckets. But Cedar Crest notched ten of the next 12 points – six from Eudy and four by Nick Miller – to end the third stanza with a 42-36 lead.
That Falcon momentum spilled over into the early portions of the final period, where Miller registered the opening two baskets to stretch the CC lead to double digits.
“We set some goals early in the season and one of them was winning our Christmas tournament,” said Smith. “They (his players) wanted it and did it. We talked about it being a stepping stone. It’s always good to beat a Mid-Penn team, and Carlisle is a quality Mid-Penn team.
“They’re (the Thunderin’ Herd) number one in the Commonwealth (division of the Mid-Penn),” Smith continued. “They’re going to present a lot of problems for a lot of teams. The (Jordan) Dockens kid is as good as anyone. I told our guys, ‘win or lose, this is a measuring stick’.
The tournament MVP award went to Cedar Crest sophomore Evan Horn, as much for his defensive efforts on Dockens as his 14 points. Miller led the Falcon scoring with 17 bench points, on six field goals and five-for-five free throwing, while CC reserve guard Dom Garloff received all-tournament recognition for another strong defensive performance.
In all, ten different Falcons found their way into the score book and 27 of Cedar Crest’s total points came from its bench.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve got six guards who, at any given time I can play,” said Smith. “I tell everyone, ‘go play your two minutes hard and we’ll get you out.’ But when these guys come out, they’re not mad about it.
“We need to shoot the ball more consistently,” continued Smith. “Tonight the game plan was to attack the rim. We’ve got a week until our next game. But we just want to continue to get better.”
With Cedar Crest executing its spread offense to perfection, the Falcons put the Thunderin’ Herd away in the middle of the fourth quarter. A Horn charity toss made it a 60-47 game with 1:13 remaining.
“We’re doing it real well,” said Smith of the Falcons’ spread attack. “It’s one of the things we’re focusing on in practice, the end of games. We can use our dribble-drive and get lay-ups. It’s a dagger to the other team. Once we get the lead, now they’ve got to come to us.
“At times, we do do it like that (substituting the entire backcourt),” added Smith. “I’ve got ten starters and I could get so many different combinations. Seth Daubert and Josh Bucher carried us early in the season. But both of them (Garloff and Jimmy Kern) had two good days of handling the basketball and playing defense. When the other team is beat, we’re fresh.”
The Falcons may have been at their best in the second period, with Eudy on the bench saddled by foul trouble. With the score tied at 15, Miller converted a conventional three-point play, Soren Frost went two-for-two at the line, Garloff scored on a strong move to the cup, Zach Gristick nailed a three-pointer, Horn knocked down a foul shot and Cedar Crest had a 26-18 lead.
“He gets in a zone and good luck,” said Smith of Horn. “I’m glad he’s on my team. He’s scary.”
Carlisle led 6-1 and 8-3 early, before Cedar Crest hit the Thunderin’ Herd with a 10-2 burst. Horn tallied four points in the run, and when Bucher connected on a trey, the Falcons had a 13-10 advantage.
“It’s nothing we’re thinking about,” said Smith of all the District Three Class AAAA power points his team is racking up. “I did know the type of schedule we were going to play. For us to get to where we want to be, these are the types of games we have to win. But that’s way down the road.”