BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Sometimes when people describe the Cedar Crest-Lebanon rivalry they compare it to a playoff game. And sometimes when people speak of playoff games they liken it to the Lebanon-Cedar Crest rivalry.
Well this was a Cedar Crest-Lebanon game played in the playoffs.
And you thought The Rivalry couldn’t get any more meaningful.
Bragging rights AND a trip to the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game were at stake on Wednesday night at Annville-Cleona High School, when the Falcons and Cedars clashed during a rare meeting in the circuit’s postseason. And it was Cedar Crest which claimed both prizes, as it out fought Lebanon High for a 47-42 semifinal triumph.
Behind a clutch 16 points from emerging freshman Alyssa Austin, the Falcons opened a couple of nine-point margins early in the final quarter, but they drained five-of-ten foul shots in the game’s final 1:09 to hold their rival at bay. Madison Rakow’s three-pointer with 16 ticks left pulled Lebanon to within a possession, at 45-42, but a subsequent intentional foul sealed the Cedars’ fate.
While it was Cedar Crest’s second win over the Cedars this season, the outcome was a far cry from the 49-30 pasting the Falcons handed Lebanon on its home court in December. With the win, Cedar Crest, the now 19-5 Section One runner-up, bolted into Friday’s 7 p.m. Lancaster-Lebanon League title tilt at Manheim Township, which edged Lancaster Catholic 53-50.
Since that December loss to the Falcons, Lebanon High had won 16 of 17 on its way to the L-L Section Two crown. The 19-5 Cedars’ next action will come at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Cocalico, in the opening round of the District Three Class AAAA tournament.
“Our basic thing was that this was the next game up,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jim Donmoyer. “I’m not going to lie to you and say it didn’t mean anything because it was Lebanon. It just made it extra special.
“I don’t think that first game had any effect on this one,” Donmoyer continued. “By the outcome, they (the Cedars) got a lot better. This was nothing like the first game. We have the fifth toughest schedule in District Three. We play good teams. That’s a good schedule. That only helps us. We’re in close games against tough teams.”
“I tried to make it not have anything to do with the first time we played them,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “I’m not a big person on revenge. I tried to emphasize this being a second chance. I wanted them (his players) focused on this being the semifinals of the league playoffs. There’s that Lebanon-Cedar Crest game that happens in the fourth game of the season. This had a different feel from that.
“These kids are great friends,” continued Brewer. “We play in summer leagues together. It gets intense on the floor, but it’s allowed to, as long as you leave it on the court. It’s competitive, with mutual respect. Away from the sports arena, we’re friends.”
After the Cedars had enjoyed some early moments, the Falcons turned it around for good late in the second quarter, thanks to the 6-2 Austin. With her teammates looking for and finding her, Austin scored six points in an 8-2 spurt that turned a 17-13 deficit into a 21-19 halftime lead.
Austin also netted Cedar Crest’s first five points of the second half, as the Falcons’ advantage grew to 26-22.
“Yeah, she’s one of the keys,” said Donmoyer of Austin’s importance to the victory. “Alex Rich played better, and Rachel Miller played well. It was a team effort. We’re not a one-man show.
“Alyssa played JV most of the year,” added Donmoyer. “She’s only come on these last six or seven games. Early in the year she was a little timid. I got on her and she pouted. I get on everyone. But the reason I got on her was because I knew how good she could be.”
“She played a heck of a basketball game,” said Brewer of Austin. “The momentum she was going with gave her team confidence. Defensively, you can stand her in the middle and we can’t get to the rim. We didn’t hit shots, and if we would have, it would’ve been a different game. Both post players (Austin and the Cedars’ Rakow) played well. It was two great teams, and one made more shots.
“We made a few more mental mistakes than normal,” Brewer added. “We didn’t knock down big shots when we needed to. ‘Threes’ to us are huge in our offense. We just didn’t do that tonight. I thought we played a great basketball game, we just missed a few opportunities.”
The Falcons opened the final frame with three free throws from Miller, a drive by Rich and an inside move from Austin to open a 40-31 margin. A drive from Miller gave the Falcons a 42- 33 cushion with 4:29 to go.
“They have three kids who can shoot,” said Donmoyer of the Cedars. “Our game plan was when they came across half court, to go and pick them up. If they wanted to make a ‘three’, they had to do it from 30 feet. And we know they like to dribble drive.
“They have three good guards and Rakow is developing into a nice post player,” continued Donmoyer. “They’re tough to handle. They spread you out. With (LHS point guard Brittany) Ulrich, we just wanted to keep her out of the middle and make her go left and guard her at the three-point line.”
“They did a really good job with help-side defense,” said Brewer of the Falcons. “They did a great job of not allowing us to get to the rim. And they did a good job of getting the ball out of Brittany’s hands and forcing her left. And when she got to the paint, they forced her to the outside. That’s the difference 6-2 (Austin) makes.”
Austin struck for 16 Cedar Crest points, while Rich registered ten. Rakow’s game-high 18 points included a pair of triples, and Ulrich accounted for 12 Lebanon points.
After losing the first quarter 10-7, the Falcons outscored the Cedars in each of the subsequent three periods.
“We came out flat. I don’t know why we came out flat,” said Donmoyer. “It’s Lebanon. We called a time out and settled down, and then we settled in. We got up two at halftime, and that was big. The girls played hard. The girls played together. I put them in position, and they have to execute.”
Four different Cedars – Ulrich, Rakow, Lauren Chambers and Shaela Shellehamer – reached the scoring column, as Lebanon High raced out to a 9-2 lead in the game’s first six minutes.
“We stopped getting stops and they started to score,” said Brewer of the outset. “We struggled with ball screens. We didn’t do a good job of communicating with it. And then we lost that confidence.
“Being a Lebanon grad, this is as cool as it gets,” continued Brewer. “This is why we coach and work with kids. That was fun. It was also frustrating at times. I told the girls at the beginning of the game that it was going to be fun. And that if we keep stealing games, it’s going to be really fun.”
“I hope the third time is a charm,” said Donmoyer of two four-point losses to Manheim Township in the regular season. “They’re a great team. They’re undefeated and we’re going to have our hands full. And we’ve got to go to their place.”