DENVER – How close did the Lebanon boys’ basketball squad come to victory last night?
A bounce of the ball here. A referee’s call there. A break anywhere.
The kind of minute details that seem to go your way at home.
On Friday at Cocalico High School, the Cedars concluded the longest road trip in the history of Lebanon County scholastic basketball with a difficult-to-swallow 52-47 loss to the host Eagles. What made it difficult to swallow was that Lebanon led by nine points with less than six minutes to play, and that the Cedars didn’t score over the contest’s final 2:23.
Trailing 50-47, Lebanon got two decent looks at potential tying three-point field goals – first by Drey Murray and then by Evan Zimmerman – with less than 12 seconds to play. Cocalico’s Spencer Maser nailed a couple of clinching free throws with two seconds showing on the clock.
Because of renovations to the Lebanon High gymnasium, Friday night’s contest represented the Cedars’ tenth straight away from home, to start the 2012-13 campaign. During its month-long road trip, Lebanon visited such exotic places as Quarryville, Annville, Palmyra, South Lebanon, Mechanicsburg, Leola and finally Denver, going 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“The kids have responded great, ” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “With the exception of one game, we won or were in every game. It gets tough being in a different place every night, always getting on the bus. If we finish strong and make it to the playoffs, it’s only going to make us better in the long run.
“Monday we’ll finally be at home,” Speraw added. “So it’ll feel like a road game, just being in our gym for the first time. It’ll be the first time we start in our own locker room.”
Lebanon seemed to have things well in hand against the Eagles, when Blayde Reich scored on an inside move with 5:54 to go, to make it 41-32 Cedars. Cocalico caught fire from deep, then caught Lebanon at 42-all.
Evan Zimmerman gave LHS a 45-42 advantage on a three-pointer with 2:55 left, and Jorian Ginetto put the Cedars up 47-45, 32 seconds later. But the Eagles tallied the game’s final seven points, including an old-fashioned three-point play from Brock Gosling that gave Cocalico the lead for good, with 1:52 to go.
“I thought we were OK,” said Speraw. “We’ve been in games like this before. It’s just making the right decisions in critical situations.
Following a back-and-forth first half, the Cedars appeared to take control of the game with a switch to a 3-2 zone. Lebanon’s 8-2 burst started with back-to-back baskets from Ginnetto and culminated with a Zimmerman three-point play that put the Cedars up 39-32.
“We played a little zone in the first half,” said Speraw. “We played it more in the second half because a lot of guys were in foul trouble. It was working when we were taking care of the shooter.”
Cocalico led 8-3 early, before the Cedars outscored it 11-3 during a four-minute stretch late in the opening stanza, to take a 14-11 edge on a pair of charity tosses by Murray. Then after a 3:14 scoreless stretch caused LHS to fall into a 19-14 chasm, the Cedars went on an 11-6 run to tie the game at 25, just in time for the break.
“The physical effort was 100 percent,” said Speraw. “The kids played their butts off. It was just a couple of mental breakdowns down the stretch that hurt us.”
“We were looking to get Evan a look,” said Speraw of the timeout he took with ten seconds remaining. “The play happened a little too soon, so he didn’t get the look we wanted. Give them (the Eagles) credit. They got the stop they needed.
“We’ve got to sure up our offense,” Speraw continued. “We’ve got to limit our mental breakdowns. Defensively we’re pretty good, if you take away a couple of possessions.”
Lebanon limited the Eagles to just five two-point field goals, but Cocalico made nine three-pointers. Cocalico, now 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Section Two, outscored Lebanon 15-8 at the charity stripe.
“Those numbers bother me because one of our focuses was not giving up a lot of three-pointers,” said Speraw. “They (the Eagles) hit more than I wanted. We just, again, had too many mental breakdowns.
“Our goals never change,” Speraw concluded. “Win the section. Make a run in the league playoffs. And make a run in districts, and see where it takes us.”
Attainable objectives best launched from home.