BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Coming in, the Lebanon boys’ basketball team knew to get the most of out its season, the Cedars had to get the most out of each other. The time has come for the Cedars to regroup, take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve done just that.
On Tuesday night at Hershey’s Giant Center, Lebanon High absorbed a soul-searching setback in the semifinals of the District Three Class AAAAAA playoffs, a 53-40 loss the Hempfield. Lebanon trailed pretty much from start to finish and never located a consistent offensive flow.
It was the Cedars’ most lop-sided loss since a 58-42 setback to rival Cedar Crest back on December 10. Lebanon, the Lancaster-Lebanon League runner-up and Section One champion, slipped to 3-2 in playoff games this postseason.
Now 21-6 on the year, the third-seeded Cedars will take on the Reading-Harrisburg loser on Thursday at 8 p.m. at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Center, in the Class AAAAAA third-place game. Lebanon has already qualified for next week’s PIAA tournament.
During regular-season play in Section One, the Cedars and Black Knights split a pair of meetings. Lebanon won 65-51 at home on January 10, while Hempfield emerged victorious on February 3rd in Landisville, 50-47.
The seventh-seeded Black Knights will carry a 19-8 overall mark into Saturday afternoon’s District Three Class AAAAAA championship game.
“I think it’s game-by-game,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “Obviously the competition is going to get better when you get to the playoffs, and that starts with the L-L. Unless you’re winning the Lancaster-Lebanon league or districts, you’re not going to win your last game.
“We play them (the Black Knights) a couple of times a year, so I guess we know them well,” continued Speraw. “They’re very disciplined. They take good shots. They’re patient and they get after you defensively. If we’re going to give them open looks, we’re in trouble.”
Despite trailing most of the way, Lebanon made a number of runs at Hempfield.
Down eight points in the middle of the third quarter, the Cedars got a driving lay-in from Camryn Shaak and a put-back from Khalique Washington to pull to within 27-23. But Lebanon did not score over the final 3:34 of the stanza and Hempfield was able to jack its lead back to eight points.
“It’s disappointing. Very disappointing,” said Speraw. “We know we can play with them. But they were better tonight.
“We missed some assignments defensively,” Speraw continued. “It’s hard to play them from behind. They’re very smart. They’re very well-coached. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
The Cedars made a similar run at Hempfield early in the fourth quarter, as Washington turned an offensive rebound into a three-point play and Shaq Ortiz scored on a hard take to the bucket, to move Lebanon to within 35-29. But Hempfield’s response was a 9-0 burst that gave it a 44-29 advantage, with just over three minutes to play.
“They did a great job on the ball,” said Speraw of the Black Knights. “They didn’t have to help, which takes away part of our offense. We had to execute against them and we didn’t do that.
“I thought we were very impatient in the first half,” added Speraw. “When we had good solid possessions, we scored. When you get behind, it’s tough to claw back into it.”
Defensively, the Cedars experienced difficulties containing Hempfield star Ryan Moffatt, who poured in 29 points, some 57 percent of his team’s total points. Moffatt drained three triples, seven two-pointers and knocked down six-of-eight free throw attempts.
With 12 points, Ortiz was the only Lebanon scorer to crack double figures. Hempfield outscored the Cedars 21-9 from downtown.
“We didn’t slow him down,” said Speraw of Moffatt. “We gave him way too many looks. And it didn’t matter who we put on him. But he has to have his looks limited.
“We were confident coming in,” Speraw added. “But we didn’t take good shots. We got ourselves in bad spots offensively. We didn’t play well.”
Lebanon went the first 4:45 of the contest without a point, until Ortiz broke the drought with an inside maneuver. A minute later, Shaak canned a three-pointer to give the Cedars their only lead of the evening, 5-4.
But the Black Knights closed the opening session with back-to-back three pointers that produced a 10-6 margin.
“It was both offense and defense,” said Speraw. “I don’t think we were very good defensively. We were impatient too often.
“We need not to give up open shots defensively,” continued Speraw. “If it wasn’t Moffatt it was (Tyler) Hilton. We’ve got to be able to rotate and know our assignments.”
Behind the play of Moffatt, Hempfield opened the second period on a 9-3 roll to open a 19-9 lead. Despite seven consecutive points from Luis Aquino-Rios, the Cedars still trailed 21-16 at the intermission.
“Any time you step onto the court, you want to win,” said Speraw of the impending consolation final. “I’m not sure what it will mean for seeding, but it’s a game and we want to win.”
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2016-17 Lebanon Boys’ Basketball Results
|7:30 PM||W 52-39|
|7:30 PM||L 42-58|
|7:30 PM||L 50-54|
|7:30 PM||W 64-52|
|7:30 PM||W 68-58|
|7:30 PM||W 79-56|
|6:00 PM||W 67-50|
|6:00 PM||W 68-44|
|5:30 PM||L 73-75|
|7:30 PM||W 60-41|
|7:30 PM||W 69-44|
|7:30 PM||L 47-50|
|2:30 PM||W 55-54|
|7:30 PM||W 53-48|
|7:00 PM||W 51-50|
|6:30 PM||L 40-53|
LEBANON COUNTY DISTRICT THREE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Cedar Crest: None.
Lebanon: 1936 (single class), 1940 (A*).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 2000, 2005, 2006, 2013
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 1949 (B*), 1957 (B*), 1996 (AAA)
Cedar Crest: 1976 (AAA), 1991 (AAAA), 1994 (AAAA), 2003 (AAAA).
Elco: 1997 (AA), 1999 (AAA), 2001 (AAA).
Lebanon: 1980 (AAA).
Lebanon Catholic: (All A) 1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016
Northern Lebanon: None.
Palmyra: 2013 (AAA)