SOUTH LEBANON – You’ll have to excuse Falcons fans if they’re a bit cynical.
For the past decade or so, this has been the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team’s year.
The year that the Falcons turn the corner. The year they become competitive. The year that CCHS becomes a ‘basketball school’.
But left with unfulfilled promises, jaded Falcon fans have been ‘twice bitten, thrice shy.’
Ask yourself these questions: When was the last time Cedar Crest qualified for the District Three Class AAAA playoffs? Or when was the last time the Falcons won a district game?
When was the last time Cedar Crest competed in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs? And when was the last time the Falcons won the Section One championship?
So is there hope for the 2012-13 season? There’s always hope. It’s the one thing that can never be taken away from Falcon fans.
“I think winning breeds winning,” said Tom Smith, a former Falcon player who’s in his third season of heading the program. “If we start winning games the perception of Cedar Crest basketball might change. I’ve got a great group of kids who love basketball, and who love Cedar Crest basketball. Winning can change that perception.
“I am very happy with the program,” Smith continued. “There’s a lot of young talent here, and the kids are buying into my system. These kids are competitive.”
Last season, Cedar Crest went 6-16 overall, and at times took its lumps in the highly competitive Section One. This season, the Falcons believe they have as much raw talent as they’ve had in a while.
“What I remember about last year is losing close games,” said Smith. “I think we lost six or seven games by six points or less. It was fun coaching and being in close games. But in every game there was something you could’ve picked out what we could’ve done better. Last year, we had hard times scoring points and consistently putting the ball in the basket.
“This is my third year, and each year we’ve implemented different things and built upon them,” continued Smith. “Things, from that standpoint, are easier. We’ve got to get the kids to adjust to our coaching. But the kids work hard and they give the maximum effort.”
Junior Seth Daubert will man the point, junior forward Tommy Black will provide an athletic inside presence, as will sophomore center Andrew Eberhart. Junior center Andrew Eudy, junior Zach Gristick, sophomore forward/center Nick Miller and sophomore guard Josh Bucher have got the front-liners’ backs.
“In my personal opinion, this is, by far, the most talented group I’ve had,” said Smith. “Practices have been very good, which is good. But everyday we step into the gym we’ve got to get better. We had a great off-season, so we were sort of ahead of the game at the beginning. But we’ve been hurt by injuries.
“The effort the kids are giving is a positive,” added Smith. “They play with effort everyday. We work hard defensively in practice, and we want to get points in transition. I wouldn’t say sitting in a half-court offense is our strength. But we finally got some size, and our defensive rebounding is helping us out.”
Even though the Falcons have struggled over the past few years, they have not lessened their goals.
“My goals don’t change from year to year,” said Smith. “I want to compete in Section One. If we can compete in Section One, everything else will take care of itself. If we can compete with the big guys in Section One, we can compete with other big schools.
“I think that’s everyone’s goals,” Smith added. “We’ve got a good group coming up. I think the last time we qualified for the playoffs was five years ago. The kids want Cedar Crest basketball to get back on the map.”
Cedar Crest will open its 2012-13 campaign on Friday, December 7th against C.D. East, in the opening round of the Lower Dauphin Tip-Off Tournament.
“No, I don’t think we’re ready yet,” said Smith. “If we had to tip tomorrow, I don’t think we’d be ready, but our kids will compete. We just have to refine what we’re doing. We just need to continue coaching and continue getting the kids to play hard. But we’ll be ready by next Friday.
“Our half-court offense is definitely a weakness,” Smith continued. “We’ve got to work on being disciplined and continue working on our reads. At this point, our issues are about inconsistency. We’re just not doing the right things.”