BY JEFF FALK
NEFFSVILLE – Experts say that the best way to understand deja vu and foreshadowing is to identify the exact moment that triggered the future event. When Cedar Crest wins the Lancaster-Lebanon League girls’ basketball championship next season, it will be able to harken back to last night as its jumping off point.
On Friday night, in the final game of this season’s L-L playoffs, the Falcons stored away a 42-34 defeat to Manheim Township on the Blue Streaks’ home floor. After falling behind by as many as nine points in the third quarter, the Falcons fought back on a couple of occasions in the fourth quarter, but just didn’t have enough experience to get over the hump.
The loss was Cedar Crest’s third of the season to Manheim Township, which had beaten the Falcons by four points both times during the regular year. The outcome left Cedar Crest 19-6 on the year, while Township improved to 25-0.
The number-five seeded Falcons will see their next action in the opening round of the District Three Class AAAA tournament, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, at home against Hempfield.
It was Manheim Township’s seventh Lancaster-Lebanon League title.
“I made them (his players) watch what was going on,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jim Donmoyer of the Blue Streaks’ net cutting ceremony. “I think this is part of a long process. This is what we want to do. I plan on being back. We’ll be back. It’s disappointing. You want to win the game. But it’s not the end of the world.
“No one expected us to be here,” Donmoyer continued. “If we lose, we’re supposed to lose. We have goals, but we’ve gone from five wins to nine wins to 19 wins. It’s not every year we get to the Lancaster-Lebanon finals. Next year our goal is to win it. It’s a process. Someone told me it’s not your team until the fourth year.”
Cedar Crest was right there with mighty Manheim Township, until the Blue Streaks canned four free throws in the final 20 seconds. Rachel Miller’s foul shot had pulled the Falcons to within 38-34 just seconds prior.
Before that, two charity tosses from Nikki Wagner had moved Cedar Crest to within 37-33 of MT, with 35 ticks left. Thirteen seconds earlier, freshman Alyssa Austin’s stick back had made it a 35-31 game.
But Cedar Crest never did manage to make it a one-possession game in crunch time.
“They’re a good team,” said Donmoyer of the Blue Streaks. “They’re better than us. They beat us three times. It’s their year.
“We made them close both games (in the regular season) and this wasn’t a cake walk,” continued Donmoyer. “We got down, but we didn’t quit. We won’t quit. It’s a good bunch of kids, but tonight wasn’t our night. I thought if we gave up 42 points, we’d be in the game.”
And in the game they were, despite the fact that the Blue Streaks threatened to run away with things after opening a 25-16 lead midway through the third quarter. Crest answered with a pair of tough drives to the hole from Miller, and an Austin free throw early in the fourth quarter, to get within 25-20.
Moments later, Abby Munnion’s inside move brought Cedar Crest to within 27-23. Then with 2:50 remaining, Alex Rich nailed a trey to make it a 31-27 Blue Streak advantage.
The Falcons kept bringing it, but the Blue Streaks always had an answer.
“They’re undefeated for a reason,” said Donmoyer of the Blue Streaks. “They’re well-coaches. Their kids are good. They have eight seniors, and I’m sure the experience showed up.
“Not that Alyssa (Austin) didn’t play well, but she played like a freshman,” Donmoyer added. “She’s (Manheim Township’s Alexandra Leslie) the best post player in the L-L. Alyssa held her own. She didn’t back down. She’s not going to get those calls as a freshman.”
Cedar Crest attempted more free throws – 19-16 – than Manheim Township, but made fewer – 13-8. Leslie canned a game-high 17 points, while teammate Kaitlyn Vantash supported her with 13 points.
With ten points, Austin was the only Falcon scorer to hit double digits. Manheim Township out rebounded Cedar Crest 30-18.
“We can’t make free throws,” said Donmoyer. “If we make free throws, we win the game. It may be nerves in the first quarter or the second quarter, but in the second half we should be settled in. I don’t know what we shoot from the foul line, but we shoot better than 50 percent.
“And in the first half, we missed nine lay-ups,” Donmoyer added. “When we went to the basket, we didn’t go strong. We faded away, and when you do that you’re not going to get the calls.”
The defenses ruled the first quarter, and Cedar Crest emerged from the initial eight minutes of action with a 6-5 edge. But Manheim Township notched the first seven points of the second period, and then took a 17-11 lead to the break.
“It’s one of those things,” said Donmoyer. “I respect what they (the Blue Streaks) do, and hopefully they respect what we do. But you don’t like to lose a game, whether they’re your friends or not. I told our kids, ‘keep your heads up.’ There’s no shame in this. If it wasn’t for them, I think we’re the best team in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.”