SOUTH LEBANON – Physical exertion can lead to fatigue. But there’s nothing more exhausting than an extended expenditure of emotional energy.
On Wednesday night at the Falcon Cage, in a battle of teams evenly matched physically, Cedar Crest wore down back-yard rival Lebanon emotionally and scored a 49-46, double-overtime triumph. The two teams stood toe-to-toe for 40 minutes of intense, emotionally-charged basketball, and it was the Cedars who ultimately blinked.
The game eventually evolved into a chess match, after Cedar Crest had erased a seven-point halftime deficit brought on by being shut out in the second quarter. But it wasn’t until Killian Klopp nailed a three-pointer and Tommy Black scored on a lay-in with two minutes left in the second extra session that the Falcons, up 48-45, finally established a working margin with possession of the ball.
The deal wasn’t completed until Lebanon’s Drey Murray misfired on an off-balanced three-point attempt at the second OT buzzer.
The win means Cedar Crest is now 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Lebanon High slipped to 3-3 on the year and 1-2 in Section Two.
“I thought we made some shots down the stretch,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “I thought our players made some great decisions taking advantage of what we had. I thought their team looked a little fatigued at the end. But we made plays and it stemmed from our decision-making.
“It can’t get too much better than that,” Smith continued. “That’s the way it’s (the rivalry) supposed to be, two teams scrapping. I thought it was a good match-up all around. The Cedar Crest-Lebanon emotions just played such a huge role in it. At the end of the day, players played, and we finished the game.”
“It comes down to a play here or there,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “Their two seniors (Klopp and Clay Penchard) really stepped up. I thought our senior stepped up. It’s a shame to play that long and someone has to lose.
“It’s going to be tough to come back from this one,” continued Speraw. “Our kids were really into it. They were more mentally into it than any other game this year.”
Regulation ended in a 39-all stalemate, after the Falcons held the ball for the final 52 seconds of it and Penchard had his last-shot attempt blocked in the lane. The first four-minute overtime session concluded with a 41-41 draw, after Cedar Crest’s Andrew Eudy and Lebanon’s Josh Spaulding exchanged inside buckets.
“They’ve (his players) been through these close ones too many times and have come out on the wrong side,” said Smith. “It’s one of the things we work on in practice. I thought taking time off the clock was to our advantage. The second half was back-and-forth, and not one time did our kids back down.
“We struggled to score all game,” added Smith. “I thought we could get that stop, score and stop down the stretch.”
“The Lebanon-Cedar Crest rivalry is hard to put into words,” Speraw added. “It’s more of a feeling when you walk into the gym. You can feel the energy. You can feel the emotion. It’s something that never goes away. But it’s a great feeling.”
For a time in the fourth quarter, the Falcons battled the athletic moves of Lebanon’s Murray around the rim with Klopp’s three-point field goals.
Klopp nailed three of his four three-pointers during the last four minutes of regulation, including one that gave Cedar Crest a 39-38 edge with 60 ticks left. A Murray charity toss eight seconds later would eventually send the game to ‘bonus basketball.’
Down 19-9 early in the second half, Cedar Crest held Lebanon to a single point over the final 6:34 of the third quarter, then tied the game at 22 on a Eudy three-point play 1:11 into the fourth quarter. It was pretty much a one-possession game from there on out.
“I’ll be honest, Killian struggled Monday at Solanco,” said Smith. “He struggled early tonight. He’s a shooter. I’ve told him, ‘Don’t let misses affect the rest of your game. And keep shooting.’
“I really some times think they’re (the Cedars) a reflection in the mirror of us,” continued Smith. “They’re gritty. They’re scrappy. They’re athletic. They like to pound it inside. Drey Murray is a heck of a player. The Spaulding kid is a heck of a player. But I thought we did a good job against them on the inside.”
“I think the key to them (the Falcons) is their two seniors,” Speraw continued. “You really have to take them out of the game. Killian is such a heady player and Clay’s (Penchard) motor never stops. They have a couple of shooters and a couple of ‘bigs’. And they’re balanced.”
Crest’s Denzel Pierre beat the first-quarter buzzer with a lay-up to give his club a 9-6 lead. But those would prove to be the last points the Falcons would score in the first half, as Evan Zimmerman and Jeremy De La Cruz knocked down second-quarter treys, and the Cedars took a 16-9 advantage to the break.
“That second quarter was crazy,” said Smith. “I never saw anything like that. I told our guys at halftime, ‘we’re digging in on defense, but being very passive against their (the Cedars’) zone’. We were playing at their tempo. I wanted them (his players) to attack it.
“In a game like this, I think emotions play into it quite a bit,” added Smith. “Our kids came out so high. Then they were the exact opposite, they became tentative.”
“I think a lot of it is usually adrenaline,” Speraw said. “The kids have a hard time calming themselves down. Lebanon-Cedar Crest games are never high scoring. They’re usually a grind-’em-out and a defensive struggle.”
“It’s a shame this game is played on the Wednesday of a three-game week,” said Smith. “We have an 18-hour rule at Cedar Crest. I told our guys to enjoy this and then come in tomorrow ready to go. It’s up to us coaches to make sure we don’t have a Lebanon hang-over.”
“I think our overall effort, I can fault our kids on that,” said Speraw. “They play hard every night for me. We’ve got to come mentally focused for 32 minutes.”