LEBANON – Each player has gotten better individually as the season has progressed. And as they’ve improved, the Lebanon boys have gotten better as a basketball team.
But there’s more to it than that. As each member has grown into their role, the Cedars have become more versatile, more consistent, more tight-knit.
Lebanon has become harder to beat.
On Thursday night at Lebanon High School, in the semifinal round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs, the Cedars once again put forth a complete and cohesive effort, during a 55-36 dismantling of Cocalico. Lebanon played hard and together throughout, opened a comfortable margin late in the first half and then pulled away during the second 16 minutes of action.
The triumph – the Cedars’ tenth in their last 11 outings – propelled Lebanon, co-champions of Section Two, to 16-3 on the year and into Saturday’s 4 p.m. L-L championship game at Manheim Township, opposite Hempfield, a 57-52 victor over Lancaster Catholic in the other semifinal. The Cedars will be making their 14th appearance in the Lancaster-Lebanon League title tilt, and first since 2017.
Lebanon has won eight league championships, but none since 2004.
With the setback, Section Three champion Cocalico slipped to 13-4 on the season.
“I think it’s just been a consistent improvement,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “I think it took a while because the kids had to find their roles. When they did it’s been huge for the team. But I’m not exactly sure when it happened.
“I think it (avoiding COVID-19) helped us in the preseason,” added Speraw. “But when the shutdown came, we went back to Square One. I think the most important thing was we had veteran kids. Every kid on the varsity played varsity or JV last year. We were just taking what they had and adding to their knowledge.”
“We’ve definitely improved throughout the year,” said Lebanon senior foward Braden Allwein. “We squeaked by Northern Lebanon in the first game. But I think as we kept picking up wins, we kept picking up confidence. Then we realized we were the team to beat.”
Down 7-5 early, Lebanon ran off 11 of the opening quarter’s final 15 points to take a 16-11 lead they would never relinquish. Luke Collins was responsible for seven of those Cedar points, while Allwein drained a three-pointer and Isaiah Rodriguez converted a foul shot.
“We’ve just been talking about focus,” said Speraw. “When it’s the postseason, everything matters, every possession matters. The first half was one of our better ones this season. For us to have that lead at halftime, it felt good. I’m just happy we’re moving on.
With Allwein netting five points and Demetrius Matthew converting a driving lay-up, Lebanon opened the second quarter with a 7-0 burst to push its advantage to 23-11. The Cedars also recorded the final seven points of the half, courtesy of Marquis Ferriera’s pull-up, Alex Rufe’s lay-in and Allwein’s deep, buzzer-beating ‘three’.
“That (the offensive execution) comes from having veteran guards,” said Speraw.”They’re (Collins and Ferriera) really seniors now. It shows. Luke’s like my coach on the court. He knows when I want to speed it up and when I want to slow it down.”
“I thought we moved the ball really well,” said Allwein. “We passed up good shots to get better shots.”
Allwein knocked down a total of four three-point field goals and led Lebanon with 16 points. Rodriguez popped for 11 points and Ferriera added ten.
On two-point field goals, Lebanon outscored Cocalico 36-20.
“He’s somewhat of our unsung hero,” said Speraw of Allwein. “It’s so great to see him go off. Defensively, he had the toughest assignment tonight (Eagle guard Carter Nuneville).
“Isaiah’s a heck of a ball player,” continued Speraw. “He pulled some moves out of his repertoire tonight. He battled. His effort and energy just keeps improving.”
“My role is ‘three’ and ‘D’,” said Allwein. “Knock down some shots when they come to me, and I usually get the toughest defensive assignment. But I just try to help the team any way I can.”
The Cedars’ only real struggle of the night came when they went without a point during the first four minutes of the second half, but Cocalico was only able to shave two points off its deficit during the time. Then, on the strength of five points from Rodriguez, a basket by Ferriera and another three-point buzzer-beater by Allwein, Lebanon closed the third period on a 12-4 run to extend its lead to 44-21.
“I think they’re easier to hit,” said Allwein of his pair of buzzer-beaters. “You don’t have time to think about it. You’ve just got to get them up quick.”
“I think we were five or six possessions into the third quarter, and we had taken only one shot and it was a bad one,” said Speraw. “But I looked up at the scoreboard and they (the Eagles) were only one score closer. We were trading bad offense for good defense, so I couldn’t be too upset about it.”
After Cocalico tallied the first five points of the fourth quarter, Lebanon was content to trade baskets with the Ealges the rest of the way.
“I don’t know if it makes it a bigger deal,” said Speraw, of qualifying for the L-L League championship game during the season of COVID-19. “It’s the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship. It’s something we talk about from Day One. Whenever we’re not getting the effort we need, we talk about the banners on the wall and the names on the wall. We start talking about the efforts they put in.”
“I think one of the biggest factors tonight was our last game against Warwick,” said Allwein, of Tuesday’s play-in victory over the Warriors. “I think after that, we knew we were the team to beat. Coming into the season, I knew we were going to be good. But I think that first win over Warwick at home gave us confidence.”
at Lower Dauphin
at Manheim Township
at Conestoga Valley
at Cedar Crest
|13||Central Dauphin East||10-||6-||0||0.668956||0.730994||0.593132||12.50||148.55||4.60||101.90|
|16||J P McCaskey||7-||7-||0||0.636027||0.622302||0.652803||8.65||144.40||5.25||76.80|
|25||York County School of Technology||2-||16-||0||0.306413||0.117318||0.537529||2.10||159.70||15.80||137.40|
Past Lancaster-Lebanon League
Boys’ Basketball Champions
1976: Cedar Crest
1991: Conestoga Valley
2003: Lancaster Catholic
2009: Conestoga Valley
2014: Cedar Crest
2015: Cedar Crest
2017: Lancaster Catholic
2019: Manheim Township
2020: Cedar Crest