BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Ahhh. Adversity.
No one ever likes it. No one ever seeks it out.
But when you’re trying to fine-tune, trying to polish the armor, trying to perfect, there’s nothing quite like it for making a good team better.
On Tuesday night at ‘The Cage’, in a championship game of the Cedar Crest Holiday Tournament that truly felt like a championship game, the Falcon boys basketball team was faced with a bunch of adversity, and responded to it like – well, champions. Cedar Crest ratcheted up the defensive intensity, made key plays in crunch time, knocked down critical free throws and walked away with a 53-42 triumph over Hershey, and the championship trophy.
Backed by the offensive and defensive presence of 6-10 junior center Dylan Painter, Hershey opened leads of as many as ten points in the opening quarter. But with tournament MVP Evan Horn leading the way, the Falcons outscored the Trojans 19-7 over the final period, including a 13-1 scoring advantage during the last four minutes of play.
The win pushed Cedars Crest to 10-0 on the season, while Hershey slipped to 5-4 overall. Over the past two years, the Falcons have now compiled an overall record of 47-8 – a winning percentage of .855.
“That’s what it is,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith of his team’s will to win. “Our game plan, game in and game out, doesn’t change because they’ve got the will to compete. We didn’t play very well, at least not early. But we found a way to win.
“That’s (47-8) awesome,” continued Smith. “I never looked at it that way. That’s an awesome accomplishment. It’s jut a compliment to these kids.”
Hershey’s early ten-point lead proved to be a big mountain for the Falcons to climb, one that Cedar Crest was only able to get over early in the fourth quarter.
A stick back from Horn 23 seconds into the final period gave the Falcons their first lead of the evening, at 36-35. Four minutes later Cedar Crest took the lead for good, on a Josh Bucher pull-up that gave it a 43-41 advantage.
On their very next possession, the Falcons went four-corners with their offense, and over the game’s final minutes it produced a put back from Dom Garloff sandwiched around free throws from Bucher, Horn and Nick Miller.
“That was the focus I was looking for,” said Smith of his side’s 11-for-13 free throwing. “That’s what we need from the foul line. We made our foul shots and were able to stretch the lead.
“They (the Trojans) outscored us by ten in the first quarter, and we won every other quarter,” Smith added. “I thought in the second quarter, when we turned up our defensive intensity that we got things going our way.”
Following a strong second quarter, the Falcons knotted the score at 24, 35 seconds into the second half on a strong ‘take’ to the bucket by Horn. But Hershey outscored Cedar Crest 11-6 over the next four minutes to re-open a 35-30 margin.
“When he spreads his arms, he goes from block to block,” said Smith of Painter, the anchor of the Trojans’ 2-3 zone. “But it wasn’t just him. They packed it in. They let us shoot, and the way we were shooting it was a good move. We didn’t shoot it very well.
“We wanted to play him (Painter) with two (defenders),” Smith continued. “But he’s a very good passer out of a double team. We just had to fight him. I thought our defense was compromised when we ran two (defenders) at him.”
Horn accumulated 22 points, on a trio of three-point field goals and three-for-four free-throw shooting. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Bucher, who notched 11 points.
Painter amassed 25 points, on nine-of-ten foul shooting.
“He’s got that mentality,” said Smith of Horn. “He knows what we need and when we need it. But he’s a very good teammate. He knows when to assert himself.”
The Falcons’ full court pressure defense and occasional double-teams on Painter began to pay dividends in the second stanza.
Facing an 18-8 deficit, Cedar Crest held Hershey without a point for a span of 5:47 to tie the score. Horn turned a steal into a lay-up, Raymie Ferreira converted a three-point play, Andrew Eberhart drained a three-pointer and Miller took it hard to the hole as part of the Falcons’ 10-0 run.
“It’s no secret that we hang our hats on our defense,” said Smith. “At the break we talked about turning our defense into offense.”
With Painter proving to be a handful, Hershey tallied the first six points, and the last eight points, of a first quarter that ended with the Trojans ahead 16-6.
“When we play against zones with our zone offense, we get passive,” said Smith. “We want to attack. When we went to our man offense it changed the kids’ mentality. We turned up the intensity in the second quarter, and started turning them (the Trojans) over.”
Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|6:30 PM||W 62-44|
|5:00 PM||W 70-60|
|7:30 PM||W 50-48|
|7:30 PM||W 65-27|
|7:30 PM||W 68-53|
|7:30 PM||W 74-45|
|7:30 PM||W 57-48|
|7:30 PM||W 46-43|
|7:30 PM||W 80-61|
|7:30 PM||W 53-42|