BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – It has no interest at all in being a one-hit wonder. In fact, the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team wants more than just a chart-topping, platinum album.
What the Falcons seek is to be a highly-successful, widely-respected artist. One which its audience yearns to be around, one which doesn’t follow trends but sets them, one which everyone can’t wait to see what it’s going to do next.
One that everyone can look up to.
After a breakthrough campaign in 2012-13, Cedar Crest followed that up with its most successful season in program history last year. So what’s in store for the Falcons this year? What will they do for an encore?
They want more. And more. And more.
“It’s absolutely harder to stay on top than get to the top, especially when you consider where we came from,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith, who experienced the lean years as both a coach and player. “We’ve had some success the last two years. Now we’re going to get everyone’s best game. Everybody wants to beat Cedar Crest.
“When I took the job we wanted to be very successful early,” continued Smith. “One of the things me and my staff did was set the expectation that it’s not OK to lose. You don’t take things lightly. We paid attention to details from the start. We’ve created a culture that kids want to be around. We had record numbers try out this season.”
Following decades of struggle, 2013-14 was truly a season for the ages for Cedar Crest. Cedar Crest won its first Section One and Lancaster-Lebanon League championships ever.
Then, after seemingly having York High exactly where they wanted it in the championship game, the Falcons begrudgingly settled for the runner-up trophy in the District Three Class AAAA tournament. For good measure, Cedar Crest also advanced in the PIAA postseason.
While observers were marveling at the their new accomplishments, the Falcons themselves didn’t seem content.
“It was a heck of a lot of fun,’ said Smith of the 26-5 campaign. “We had a great group of kids who wanted to win. I don’t think they (his players) realized at first how good they were.
“We did (understand the historical significance of it),” Smith continued. “We talked about it. We had our goals. It drove us that much more. I think during the season we realized how special it was. We enjoyed it.”
So was last year last year, and this year this year? One has to believe that with ten seniors and the core group of that run returning, there will be some degree of carry-over from last season.
Departed performers Andrew Eudy, Seth Daubert and Zach Gristick will be difficult to replace. But perhaps no one is better qualified to do that than the Falcons.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Smith of the previous year. “We closed that book. We talked a little about that. But we started a new chapter.
“There are definitely expectations out there for us,” added Smith. “But no one has higher expectations for us than we do. We try to keep everything in our basketball family.”
Not unlike last season, Cedar Crest is athletic, seasoned, tough, flexible and balanced. Competition for playing time is heated, and that fact will only serve to make CCHS better.
The strength of the Falcons’ unit emanates from its backcourt, the place where senior leader Josh Bucher, Dominic Garloff and Jimmy Kern ply their trades. All can handle the rock, shoot the three and most importantly defend on the ball, characteristics that reserve guards Marq Kinztzer, Kolby Balanos and Isaiah Trimble also exhibit.
“We’re athletic and talented and deep,” said Smith. “We’ve got a lot of seniors and they compete. They want to make each other better. They’re fiighting for minutes everyday, which is a nice thing.”
Talented 6-0 junior forward Evan Horn is a match-up nightmare for opponents, a tough, strong, composed ball handler and the Falcons’ best all-around player. Horn is joined at the forward/wing slot by senior Nick Miller, Soren Frost and Nikolai Madsen.
“That’s our strength, defense,” said Smith. “The backbone of every good team is defense. That’s where we make our living. Our guards are strong and athletic and they’re good at making it miserable for other teams. We’re not going to outscore many people.
“Right now, we’re not playing very good offensively,” Smith added. “I’d like to be more efficient. When we get in our half court offense, we struggle. We’ve got good, talented kids trying to do too much. They need to be themselves.”
Look for 6-6 senior center Andrew Eberhart to emerge from Eudy’s long shadow and carve out his own niche in the Falcon post. Eberhart’s running mate inside, the emerging Raymie Ferrara is poised to burst onto the varsity scene.
“I tell everyone that my goal is to compete in Section One,” said Smith. “If you can compete in Section One, a lot of things are going to take care of themselves. If you do that, districts are going to take care of themselves.
“Our kids need to stay humble and hungry,” Smith continued. “Everyone’s telling them (his players) how good they are. We didn’t do anything. Last year, we had a chip on our shoulders. They wanted to make a name for themselves. I’d like to see us play with that same chip on our shoulder this year.”