SOUTH LEBANON – A pessimist might remind you of the recent past, and of the fact that it’s only three games.
An optimist may point out that it was a second straight victory that produced a winning percentage of .667.
A realist would probably adopt a wait-and-see approach.
One needn’t wonder to which school of thought the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team is subscribing.
On Tuesday night at the Falcon Cage, Cedar Crest won its second game of the young season by out lasting Central York 46-43 down the stretch. But what gave Falcon backers the most enjoyment was the way their team got it done, with the outcome on the line.
In improving to 2-1 overall, Cedar Crest showed heart, desire and a little moxie. After trailing at halftime, the Falcons made enough free throws, came up with enough loose balls and got enough defensive stops to pull it out.
With the loss, Central York slipped to 1-2 on the campaign.
“Our kids are fighters, ever single one of them,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “Ever since I’ve been at Cedar Crest, every kid has fought for me. We lost a lot of close games last year. Hopefully we’re going to find ways to win them this year.
“It’s definitely a confidence boost,” said Falcon senior captain and guard Killian Klopp. “We’ve shown we can play with good teams.
“The attitude is a lot better in the locker room this year,” Klopp added. “We come to practice everyday trying to get better. And it shows in games.”
Central York took a 43-42 edge with a three-pointer with 2:53 to go. But instead of wilting, the Falcons responded.
That would prove to be the final point the Panthers would score against Cedar Crest’s man-to-man defense – as well as a strategic switch to zone by the Falcons with 1:10 remaining. After the Falcons had gotten into the foul bonus early, Klopp nailed a pair of free throws with 2:40 left to put his team up 44-43.
But the result was finalized until Klopp kept alive a missed free throw by teammate Josh Bucher with six seconds left. The Falcons notched their final seven points at the charity stripe, on seven-of-13 shooting.
“We needed some stops down the stretch,” said Smith. “We started to attack the glass and we got into the bonus. And the kids cleared the defensive glass. The kids just made some plays down the stretch. And we were able to take time off the clock at key moments.
“It (2-1) feels good,” continued Smith. “Not just for me. They (his players) deserve it. Killian and Clay (Penchard) have laid it on the line for me for four years. Hopefully the young kids they are bringing along will learn from them.”
“I saw there was 5.6 seconds left, and as soon as he (Bucher) missed it, I just wanted to waste as much time as I could,” said Klopp. “I jumped as high as I could to try to tip it to Evan (Horn). It was huge.”
Down six at the break, Cedar Crest came out hard in the third quarter and took it to Central York. The Falcons held the Panthers without a point for a 2:41 span and turned a 28-22 deficit into a 30-28 edge.
Included in Cedar Crest’s eight straight points were a short jumper from Klopp, a putback by Tommy Black, a strong move to the hole by Nick Miller, and ultimately a drive from Seth Daubert. Thanks to two free throws from Andrew Eudy and another Black stick-back, Cedar Crest carried a 37-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
“The one thing he and I have talked about is if he’s not making shots, it affects his entire game,” said Smith of Klopp. “But now he does way more for this team than just make jump shots. We needed a big three-minute start to the second half, and he came out and made some shots.
“It’s always fun playing in front of the home crowd,” Smith continued. “Hopefully they’ll keep coming in because the kids are playing hard. I think they get enjoyment out of the kids playing hard.”
“In the first half, we got very good looks,” said Klopp. “But we couldn’t get it to fall. It was like there was a lid on the basket. In the second half, we played better defense.”
Klopp led all scorers with 18 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc. In all, nine different Falcons found their way into the scorebook.
Cedar Crest also outscored Central York 10-2 at the foul line.
“We’re trying to figure it out,” said Smith. “We’ve got 16 kids, and all can play. We’re trying to figure out rotations.
“The kid’s (freshman Evan Horn) a hard worker,” added Smith. “He comes to play everyday. I really trust him in games because he’s strong with the ball and he knows what I want him to do.”
With Klopp nailing a pair of treys, the Falcons established a modest 9-7 edge through eight minutes of play. But Cedar Crest yielded 17 points in the second period – including a halftime-buzzer-beating three-pointer from Panther Nate Snyder – and trailed 24-18 at the break.
“We let them dictate to us in the first half,” said Smith. “We knew they (the Panthers) were going to get after it, and we backed down. It was disappointing. It was not taking care of the ball.
“My message to them (his players) at halftime was ‘don’t take a backseat to them (the Panthers)’,” Smith added. “I thought we needed to attack in a stronger manner. We have to be strong with the ball. They (his players) bought into it and came out in the second half and did it.”
“We started out real slow,” said Klopp. “After we got a little speech at halftime, we pushed it to even, and then we were able to win it down the stretch. It’s a huge win. We have a lot of games coming up which are winnable.