BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – The Cedar Crest-Lebanon High rivalry is like a vacation.
It’s all about the here and now. No one can wait till it gets here. But when it’s over, it’s over.
And then of course there’s always one next year.
On Wednesday night at Lebanon High School, it was the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball team which did a better job of living in the moment, as it pulled away from the rival Cedars for a 49-30 victory. In a game featuring two pretty good squads – the contest became a little ragged at times due to the tension and nerves – it was the Falcons who committed the least mistakes and took advantage of a greater number of their opportunities.
Actually, the Falcons never trailed, after notching the first six points of the Lancaster-Lebanon Section One-Two crossover affair. Then after opening a double-digit cushion after the intermission, Cedar Crest outscored Lebanon High 18-9 down the stretch.
The triumph lifted the Falcons to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in Section One. The setback dropped the Cedars to 3-3 on the year and 1-2 in Section Two.
“This is huge,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jim Donmoyer. “You can throw the records out. Lebanon is Lebanon. Cedar Crest is Cedar Crest. It’s very intense. The rivalry is renewed. It’s stressful. I’m glad it’s here, and I’m glad it’s over.
“That’s just Lebanon-Cedar Crest,” added Donmoyer. “There’s a lot of emotion. It’s important to these kids. It’s just the way it is. That makes it more sloppy. It’s just jitters and nerves, and the rivalry brings it out.”
“A lot of times in games like this you’re going to get that,” said Lebanon head coach Ben Brewer. “That’s the biggest crowd we’re going to play in front of this year, even if we make it to the league playoffs. These girls know each other. They play against each other all summer. You’ve got some jitters. You’ve got some nerves.
“I thought we came out with a lack of intensity,” Brewer added. “We didn’t see the emotion you expect to see when you play Cedar Crest on your home floor. There was no intensity on defense. We let them get open shots.”
Certainly Cedar Crest was the side which channeled its nervous energy better.
The Falcons assumed control of the outcome in the third quarter, when it tallied five points in the final 26 seconds of the stanza to turn a five-point margin into a 31-21 cushion. Rachel Miller connected on a three-point attempt and freshman Alyssa Austin beat the horn with a put back.
Earlier in the frame, Miller had nailed a different trey, as had teammate Alex Rich, one that had given her side a 23-13 lead.
“I thought we played well,” said Donmoyer. “There’s a lot of people at this game. Most kids don’t play in front of this many people. I told the kids that they didn’t play very well offensively in the first half, but we played good defense all night.
“We hit some shots,” continued Donmoyer. “That’s what broke it open. They (the Cedars) were without one of their guards tonight, and I’m sure that hurt them.”
“They’re similar to us, when we have our entire personnel,” said Brewer of the Falcons. “They’re guard-oriented. They’re pesky on defense. And where they have depth, we have height.”
With 18 points, Miller led all scorers, while teammate Nicole Wagner collected a dozen. The Cedars, who were without senior spark plug Lauren Chambers because of a violation of team rules, got 22 of their 30-point total from the junior outside-inside combo of Brittany Ulrich and Maddy Rakow.
The Falcons knocked down a total of eight three-point field goals in the game.
“It has an effect because you take away our energy leader,” said Brewer of the benched Chambers. “She was one of the girls who wanted to play in this game the most. We came to play with 13 girls on the bench. They (the Falcons) stepped up and made the big shots, and we couldn’t match them.”
“She (Miller) hit a couple of threes that were big,” said Donmoyer. “She was the catalyst for us in the second half.
“Normally they (the Cedars) shoot the ball well from the outside,” Donmoyer continued. “Normally they have three guards who can shoot. Tonight it didn’t seem to be their focus. Our philosophy was: ‘when their guards are a foot away from the three-point line, we’re all over them.’ We said, ‘we’ll take our chances with the post.'”
Cedar Crest ripped off ten straight points in the middle of the final quarter to open a 43-23 advantage. While holding the Cedars without a score for a three-minute span, the Falcons were getting a couple of Miller drives, an Emily Wagner trey and a conventional three-point play from Austin.
“The first year was rough,” said Donmoyer of his program’s evolution. “We went through the 5-17, but last year we got a little better. But I knew with this group we’d turn the corner. Three-and-one is a big start for us.
“I have four starters back and we added some size,” continued Donmoyer. “It’s turning around slowly but surely. Overall, the kids play hard, they play together and there’s no drama.”
“It’s not what I expected, but we played some pretty tough basketball games,” said Brewer of his team’s .500 start. “We’ve played some heavy hitters. Now we’ve got to step up and put some comfortable wins on the board. It starts Friday (at home against Conestoga Valley). We’ve got to step up again.”
On the strength of a foul shot from Kiana Graves, the Cedars were within 13-11 of the Falcons early in the second period. But Cedar Crest held Lebanon High without a point over the final 5:11 of the first half and took an 18-13 margin to the locker room.