BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – It’s what everyone is thinking, but nobody is saying: ‘This Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team is better than any one I can remember’.
But here’s something most people haven’t even started imagining yet: ‘These current Falcons have a chance to carve out their own history, in a program with a less than illustrious past.’
On Thursday night, in the opening round of its own Christmas Tournament, Cedar Crest notched its eighth win in nine tries this season, shading Conrad Weiser 58-53. Though the Falcons didn’t score any style points for the performance, they did chalk up another in the ‘win’ column.
After a hot start, Cedar Crest blew all but one of a 15-point lead. And although they never could quite put the pesky Scouts away, the Falcons never allowed them to go ahead either.
The triumph pushed the Falcons into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game of their holiday event, opposite Carlisle, which handled Hershey 75-67 in the other opener. Thursday’s outcome had everyone scrambling to figure out the last time Cedar Crest had started a boys’ basketball season 8-1.
Ever notice Frank Kuhn, Jr. is never around when you need him?
“No, I don’t know the last time we were 8-1,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “We’re going one game at a time. We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves. What I do know is that we haven’t won our holiday tournament in the six years I’ve been here. We haven’t won a championship in quite a while, but tomorrow we have an opportunity, against a very good Carlisle team
“We’re happy where we’re at,” Smith added. “But we’re not satisfied. We just want to keep winning.”
And it appears that the Falcons have mastered the intricacies of a concept that can be hard to grasp. Against Conrad Weiser that involved refusing to relinquish the lead.
The defining moment for Cedar Crest arrived three minutes into the second half, when Conrad Weiser pulled to within 29-28 of the Falcons. The Falcons responded by holding the Scouts scoreless for the next 2:26, and then taking a 35-28 lead on two baskets from Andrew Eberhart and one by Seth Daubert.
“We’d stretch it to eight or ten, and then they’d (the Scouts) make a big shot,” said Smith. “We were ready to stretch it (the lead), and then they’d hang around. I told our guys in the locker room, ‘we’ve got to be able to put teams away.’ But Conrad Weiser deserves some credit.
“We played well enough to win,” continued Smith. “I don’t think we played with the intensity we had to for four quarters.”
After carrying a 41-32 advantage into the final stanza, Cedar Crest’s lead fluctuated between four and eight points over the final eight minutes of action. Conrad Weiser pulled to within 48-44 midway though the fourth quarter, but the Falcons did a good job of running clock, creating lay-ups and getting to the foul line out of their spread offense.
“We were executing a little better earlier,” said Smith. “But they (the Scouts) made some big shots and kept coming after us. They kept fighting. The way we played in the first quarter we need to play for four quarters.
“That is tough,” Smith continued. “Especially with the stretch we’ve been in. After tomorrow (Friday) we’ll have played eight games, had six practices and three days off. It’s quite a stretch. But the kids are trying to get better every day.”
On ten field goals, the emerging Eberhart put together a break-out game, pouring in a career-high 20 points. Andy Orr went for 26 Conrad Weiser points.
“The game you saw tonight from Andrew is what we see every day in practice,” said Smith. “Where he runs into trouble is with fouls. He was very aggressive and was attacking the rim. We felt he had a good match-up.
“They (Eberhart and Andrew Eudy) work hard in practice,” Smith added. “They push each other in practice. The two of them understand the game of basketball and they follow the game plan. The sky’s the limit for the two of them.”
Cedar Crest came out with the look of a team that might blow Conrad Weiser right out of the gym.
The Falcons did not surrender a point for the opening 4:11 and grabbed a 6-0 lead on two charity tosses from Eudy, a Eudy stick back and an offensive rebound by Eberhart. Then 1:23 into the second quarter, Cedar Crest opened a 20-5 bulge on a three-pointer from Zach Gristick.
“I’d say we’re right where we thought we’d be,” said Smith. “I think we’re putting ourselves in a good position. If we can put some wins together, it’ll make it easier on us down the stretch.”