BY JEFF FALK
LITITZ – Four seasons. Four straight trips to the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game.
Each has come with a different group of players. Each has been its own separate journey. Each has unfolded in its own special way.
But if there’s been one common denominator for the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team, it’s that each and every time the Falcons have gotten the most out of their ability.
On Wednesday night at Warwick High School, the Falcons reached their fourth consecutive L-L League title tilt by grinding out and gutting out a 58-56 semifinal triumph over Lancaster Mennonite. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn’t Cedar Crest’s best effort either. And it wasn’t complete until the Blazers misfired on a pair of potential game-winning three-pointers in the final ten seconds.
After they had led by 14 points in the third stanza, the Falcons managed to hold off the hard-charging Blazers in crunch time.
Senior Evan Horn gave the Falcons a 58-54 cushion with 1:53 remaining, with a hard ‘take’ to the hole. But 13 seconds later, Cody Hurst responded in kind for Lancaster Mennonite, causing the closing seconds to be tense moments.
With the win, the Section One runner-up Falcons improved to 19-5 overall. Two-time defending league champion Cedar Crest will meet a familiar nemesis in Section One champ McCaskey, which took care of Conestoga Valley 86-78, in Thursday’s 7 p.m. league championship at Manheim Township High School.
The Falcons have been beaten handily by McCaskey twice this season – 84-55 in Lancaster on December 18 and 63-42 in South Lebanon on January 19.
Lancaster Mennonite, the runner-up out of Section Four, slipped to 12-12 on the year.
“It’s exciting. It’s awesome,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “When we took over the program, our goal was to compete in Section One. Getting there four times is special. A couple of weeks ago, things didn’t look good.
“This is our goal every year,” continued Smith. “To reach it is exciting. We have some guys who have been there before. If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season we’d be 19-5 and playing McCaskey in the league championship for the fourth straight year, I would’ve taken it.”
The Falcons spent the entire fourth quarter putting down Lancaster Mennonite uprising after Lancaster Mennonite uprising.
Blake Thomson’s drive with 2:16 to go made it 56-51 Falcons, but the Blazers retaliated with a Carter Hurst three-pointer 11 seconds later. A driving lay-in by Horn had given Cedar Crest a 54-49 lead, ahead of two foul shots from C. Hurst.
A different drive by Thomson, 1:36 into the final session, put Cedar Crest up 51-44.
“It has to do with both (Mennonite playing well, and the Falcons not so much),” said Smith. “We jumped up 14 and during a timeout I told our guys, ‘We have to put them away. It’s time to apply the knock-out punch.’ But it’s the game of basketball. At the end of the day, there’s two teams out there.
“At times, we were very good. At times, we weren’t very good,” Smith added. “They’ve (the Blazers) got some kids who can play. They’re here for a reason.”
The Falcons used three points from Horn and a Thomson bucket to expand a seven-point halftime lead to 41-29 early in the third period. Thanks to a Ramie Ferriera reverse midway through the period, Cedar Crest was up 45-31, before Lancaster Mennonite closed the quarter on an 11-4 spurt.
“We’re getting better everyday,” said Smith. “Are we where we need to be? No. But as long as we compete and get better every day, that’s all I can ask.
“No, we haven’t been consistent,” Smith continued. “At times we’ve been consistent, but other times we haven’t. Tonight I don’t think was our most consistent performance. We just have to put this behind us and come together tomorrow. And I think we will.”
Horn poured in a game-high 27 points on a pair of three-pointers and seven-for-11 free throwing, and snared 17 rebounds. Cedar Crest converted 11 of its 19 attempts at the foul stripe and outscored Lancaster Mennonite by six points there.
“I think he was stilling getting his looks,” said Smith of Horn. “But I thought we got a little complacent on offense. They (the Blazers) did what they do, which is get out in transition.”
Thanks to a technical foul on the Blazers and a three-pointer, Horn tallied five points in a 14-second span in the middle of the second period to extend Cedar Crest’s seven-point advantage to 33-21. Then after the Blazers had pulled to within 34-29 of the lead, the Falcons ended the first half on a high note, courtesy of a Horn put back.
“It wasn’t maybe our best game,” said Smith. “I told them (his players) to enjoy this one. I’m glad they (the Red Tornado) won. They hammered us twice. But I’m not sure they got our best game. I’d like to play them with our best game.
“I think our guys are hungry,” added Smith. “I think they know a game like this doesn’t win against McCaskey, and it doesn’t win next Wednesday (against Hempfield in the opening round of the District Three Class AAAA playoffs).”
The Falcons were nursing a 17-15 edge late in the opening period, before Dylan Miller scored on a drive and Horn converted an offensive rebound. And when Horn knocked down a foul shot 32 seconds into the next quarter, Cedar Crest had itself a 22-15 lead.
“Both of them looked good,” said Smith of the Blazers’ three-point field goal attempts in the waning seconds.
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2015-16 Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|4:30 PM||W 74-68|
|7:30 PM||W 58-38|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 52-46|
|7:30 PM||L 55-84|
|7:30 PM||L 69-75|
|7:30 PM||W 58-53|
|7:30 PM||W 59-49|
|7:30 PM||W 70-44|
|7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|7:30 PM||W 66-53|
|7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|7:30 PM||W 66-46|
|7:30 PM||W 44-32|
|7:30 PM||L 42-63|
|7:30 PM||L 59-63|
|7:30 PM||L 53-68|
|7:30 PM||W 74-46|
|7:30 PM||W 69-54|
|7:30 PM||W 63-51|
|7:00 PM||W 59-52|
|8:00 PM||W 58-56|
|7:00 PM||Manheim Twp. High School|
|7:00 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
PIAA District Three
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