BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – Not only are the Cedar Crest Falcons accomplished performers, they also possesses an impeccable sense of timing. For the Falcons picked perfect stage to demonstrate that they are on the verge of something special.
On Wednesday night at Lebanon High School, during its annual war with the home-standing and rival Cedars, the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team put on an exhibition of team play, shooting and strength worthy of its 67-48 triumph. The balanced and deep Falcons protected the basketball and connected on seven of their ten first-half three-point field goal attempts, before putting the Cedars away in the fourth quarter.
Cedar Crest is now 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, for the first time in recent memory. The loss was Lebanon High’s first of the campaign and left it 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Section Two of the L-L.
“I think we are on the verge of something special,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “That’s a reflection of our kids. They work hard and they wanted this. This was a big win for us, but it’s just a stepping stone. We have bigger things in mind.
“The depth that we have is great,” continued Smith. “There’s not enough minutes in a game to get the kids as many minutes as they deserve. I have confidence in them. They have confidence in themselves. And they have confidence in their teammates.”
“Obviously it hurts because it’s Cedar Crest,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “The guys were looking forward to it. They were excited about the game. But when emotion gets involved, you lose some of the mental aspect.
“I knew coming in they’d be the best team we’ve seen so far,” Speraw continued. “They’re deep. They’re balanced. They have tough guards. They can shoot. They’re a tough team and they showed it tonight.”
On the three-point shooting of Seth Daubert and Zach Gristick, the Falcons hit the Cedars with a 12-3 run late in the first half and took a 35-21 lead. Then late in the third quarter, Cedar Crest got four straight baskets from reserve Nick Miller in opening a 48-30 bulge.
Cedar Crest outscored Lebanon High in each and every quarter.
“They (the Cedars) were hanging with us,” said Smith. “Then we hit three threes in-a-row and it sparked us. It’s our offense. We want to get teams who aren’t as athletic as us to come out and guard us.
“We want to spread them out,” added Smith. “Make two players play one. It’s the game of basketball. It’s easy.”
“They (the Falcons) were hitting three-pointers and we were missing foul shots,” said Speraw. “That was by far the worst we shot at the foul line this season.
“They (the Falcons) did shoot the ball well,” Speraw added. “From watching them this year, they shot well, but they didn’t shoot it that well. They were on fire.”
Cedar Crest knocked down a season-high total of 11 three-point field goals, and limited its turnovers to a dozen. On a team with formidable size, the Falcons got 35 combined perimeter points from Gristick, Daubert and Josh Bucher.
Jorian Ginnetto tallied 18 points for the Cedars.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Smith of the rivalry with Lebanon. “I love playing them at home. And I love playing them away. I told our guys before the game that when they go out on the floor to take a deep breath and take it all in – the crowd, the atmosphere. It was a very satisfying win.
“Lebanon’s got a great team,” Smith continued. “They’re going to be a tough out the rest of the year. Tim’s doing a great job of coaching them, but I’d like to think I’m doing a good job myself.”
“I wouldn’t say they were the most physical team we’ve played this year,” said Speraw of the Falcons. “But they’re balanced and deep. And they have a lot of things they can hurt you with.”
Cedar Crest tallied seven unanswered points early in the fourth quarter and pushed its advantage to 57-35 on a Bucher pull-up. It wasn’t longer after that Smith pulled all of his starters.
But he was forced to bring them back on to the floor with 2:26 remaining, when Lebanon High pulled to within 63-48 on a couple of technical foul shots from Ginnetto.
“Those are the things we talk about,” said Smith. “We take pride in being physical. We take pride in getting up and getting after you. Our guards defend the heck out of the basketball, and I love it.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” Smith continued. “But we’ve still got a lot to work on. The thing we did well is shoot the basketball. We’ve been terrible at the foul line, but tonight we were better.”
“We had guys who were excited to play,” said Speraw. “Some were too excited. Other guys have been in high pressure situations. But kids are going to get excited.”
The game was tied at nine in the early going, before Cedar Crest notched ten of the last 14 points of the opening stanza. Gristick nailed a couple of treys in the outburst, while Andrew Eudy knocked down a pair of charity tosses and Andrew Eberhart took it strong to the cup.
“I think we’re right where we’d like to be,” said Smith. “I wish we could’ve gotten that Central York game. But I’m satisfied.”
“We had stretches of playing really well,” said Speraw of his team’s prior five-game winning streak. “But I still don’t think we’ve reached our ceiling. We can get better, and we will.”