BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – Lebanon High may or may not be the best boys’ basketball team in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. But the Cedars aren’t good enough to win by simply walking on to the floor.
On Saturday afternoon, during its 59-50 triumph over Solanco, there were times Lebanon appeared to have things figured out – and then there were other times. After building a comfortable margin early in the fourth quarter, the Cedars were forced to endure a spirited Mule comeback in the middle of the final stanza, before finally putting their guests away.
The win kept Lebanon High, now 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the circuit, in the Section Two driver’s seat. With the setback, Solanco slipped to 3-6 on the campaign and 0-5 in the section.
The contest was postponed from Friday night by snow.
“Absolutely,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “We have to play hard against every team in the section, even though some might not have a good record. We’ve got to come out and play. We were up 17, and we have to stay on teams and finish out games better.
“The section championship is our first goal,” Speraw continued. “We always talk about winning the section and going after a league title. We talk about being remembered. We talk about leaving a legacy. The section championship is definitely a goal. It’s a goal every year, and it’s one we’re chasing.”
After Jorian Ginnetto had given Lebanon High a 46-29 lead with two charity tosses to open the fourth quarter, the Mules hit the Cedars with a 15-4 burst to make it a 50-44 game with three minutes to play. But junior forward Jahlil Ortiz righted the Cedar ship with an inside move, then Lebanon proceeded to drill seven-of-eight free throws in the final 1:24 to seal the deal.
“We just became complacent,” said Speraw. “We started trading baskets with them. It’s dangerous to do with a team that shoots a lot of threes.
“We played OK in stretches,” Speraw added. “We didn’t play well the whole game, but we played well enough. We were sloppy with the ball at times. We started making errors, but we’ll clean it up.”
The Cedars enjoyed an eight-point lead at halftime, before threatening to blow out Solanco late in the third quarter. While holding the Mules without a score for the final 4:41, the Cedars were getting a drive to the bucket from Noah Sanders, a Kristian Sanchez three-pointer and three more points by Ortiz, as part of an 8-0 run.
“We’re starting to figure out our roles,” said Speraw. “With Blayde (Reich) in foul trouble, Jahlil (Ortiz) really stepped up in a big way. But we’re figuring it out as we go.”
Ortiz tallied a career-high 15 points, while Ginnetto led Lebanon with 16, on ten-of-12 free throwing. Reich notched 11 points, meaning 42 of the Cedars’ total came from their front court.
Lebanon High outscored Solanco 23-9 at the free throw line.
“I see what you’re saying,” said Speraw. “We have a couple of kids filling some roles. Sometimes they’re on, and sometimes they’re not. But we just need one to be on.”
Early on, it took a while for the Cedars to get comfortable against the trapping Solanco was doing out of its 2-3 zone. But once it did, LHS pieced together a 7-2 spurt – thanks to three-pointer from Mark Pyles, a Reich drive and a lay-in by Ortiz – to grab a 13-8 edge.
“They were trapping out of their zone,” said Speraw of the Mules, “and they were trapping out of man (to-man). We just stopped attacking.”
Protecting a 21-18 advantage midway through the second stanza, Lebanon went on a 9-2 run. Ginnetto canned a couple of free throws, Jeremy De La Cruz converted a lay-up, Matty Lopez hit a foul shot, Pyles scored inside and Ortiz made good on a pair of free throws to give the Cedars a 30-20 lead.
|Lebanon||4 – 1 – 0||8 – 2 – 0|
|Ephrata||3 – 2 – 0||4 – 5 – 0|
|Cocalico||1 – 3 – 0||3 – 5 – 0|
|Solanco||0 – 5 – 0||3 – 6 – 0|
|Elizabethtown||0 – 5 – 0||1 – 9 – 0|
|Conestoga Valley||0 – 4 – 0||0 – 9 – 0|
Lebanon 59, Solanco 50
Ephrata 60, Elizabethtown 50