BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – It’s kind of fun to guess with the organizers of these tip-off tournaments.
What they’re trying to accomplish is to get host teams into championship games and give them shots at titles. And if the home squads come away with favorable match-ups in the title tilts, well that’s just the best of both worlds.
Lebanon certainly lived up to its end of the bargain. And things worked out on the other end as well.
On Friday night during the opening round of the Lebanon Athletic Booster Club’s 18th annual tip-off tournament, the host Cedars’ history of performing well in the event continued, as they took out Red Lion 52-39. After a sluggish start offensively, Lebanon picked up the pace right after halftime to match the intensity of the defense it played throughout.
The result set up an intriguing early season match-up with rival Cedar Crest, which ran away from Elco in the other opener, in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. It will be just another chapter in a storied hoops rivalry between Lebanon County’s two largest high schools, one that Cedar Crest has dominated recently.
“It’s usually our athletic director who makes that decision,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw of how the first-round pairings are determined. “We base it on what will help us in the future. Mr. (Sam) Elias puts the schedule out and we play the games.
“We weren’t going to play them (the Falcons) in the first game,” continued Speraw. “They’re just next on our schedule. I always tell the kids that they can’t get too high and they can’t get too low. It’s just another game.”
After a poor shooting first half that ended with Red Lion up 18-16, whatever Speraw told his troops at halftime they took to heart in the second half. The message was basically ‘better shooting and more of the same man-to-man.’
The Cedars came out and scored the first ten points of the third quarter to grab a 26-18 lead they refused to relinquish.
Senior Camryn Shaak ignited it with a steal and lay-in, then followed it up with a three-pointer.Felix Kortright kept the run going with an inside bucket off an inbound play and sharp-shooter Dante Vargas finished it off with another trey.
“It’s the first game. A big crowd. Different teams in the tournament,” said Speraw. “You’ve got to be happy with a win. We did some good things in the first half, but we didn’t shoot the ball well. At halftime I just reassured them (his players) that we’d knock down shots in the second half, and we did.
“It was just a matter of making shots,” Speraw continued. “Then we knocked down a couple of foul shots, and all of a sudden we’ve got a ten- or eleven-point lead. But I thought our effort was better in the second half. I thought we took it up a little more defensively.”
The Lions had one final run left in them, and they pulled to within 36-33 of the lead by notching the first four points of the final quarter But Lebanon’s response was a 10-2 burst over the next five minutes, crunch time if you will.
Shaq Ortiz tallied four points during the spurt, while teammates Khalique Washington, Luis Aquino-Rios and Vargas also contributed scoring. It was Vargas’ free throws with 2:53 to go which gave Lebanon a 46-35 cushion.
“I thought our defense was good at times,” said Speraw. “I didn’t think we closed as well on one shooter as we could have. That’s something we need to be concerned about with Cedar Crest because they have some guys who can shoot. But we’ll sure some things up and be better tomorrow.
“We work on it (free throw shooting) everyday,” added Speraw. “But obviously we don’t have the same kind of pressure on us in practice.”
Lebanon went 16-for-24 at the charity stripe and knocked down a total of six treys. Shaak and Vargas tied for team-high scoring honors with 11 points apiece.
Defensively, the Cedars limited Red Lion to a total of just 13 field goals.
“I thought we were anxious at the beginning,” said Speraw. “That could attest to our start. It could’ve been nerves. But you can’t be upset when you win your first game. You can’t be upset when you win any game. A couple of years ago we won ugly games all the way to a section championship.”
Lebanon led 11-7 early, but that was before the Lions rattled off five unanswered points to forge a one-point edge. Cedar Sebastian Sierra halted the run with a three-pointer, and a minute later Vargas knocked down a jumper to give Lebanon a 16-15 margin.
But the Cedars did not score over the final 3:19 of the second period.
“When I think of this tournament I think of the history of it,” said Speraw. “I remember playing against Williamsport and some of the Philadelphia Catholic League schools. That’s history there. Now this is the first time Cedar Crest is in it in a long time, or ever. It’s going to be exciting. It’s Cedar Crest-Lebanon. It’s an early Christmas present for everyone in Lebanon County.
“Just another game, right?,” Speraw added. “We’ve got to get ready for a good offense. And they (the Falcons) pressure the ball well. You know they’re going to want to come out and put it to us.”
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|12/04 #||Lancaster Mennonite||7:30 PM||W 69-56|
|12/05 #||Elco||7:30 PM||L 60-61|
|12/11 *||@Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||W 45-32|
|12/14 *||Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 74-56|
|12/16 *||@Warwick||7:30 PM||W 75-46|
|12/18 *||@Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 60-45|
|12/21 *||Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 68-51|
|12/23 *||@Solanco||7:30 PM||W 63-45|
|12/29 #||@Boiling Springs||3:30 PM||W 53-28|
|12/30 #||@Mechanicsburg||7:00 PM||W 45-37|
|01/02||@Governor Mifflinon||1:00 PM||L 40-50|
|01/05 *||@Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||L 61-64|
|01/08 *||Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 64-57|
|01/11 *||Hempfield||7:30 PM||W 62-56|
|01/13 *||@McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 71-82|
|01/15 *||Cedar Crest||7:30 PM||L 32-44|
|01/19 *||Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 58-45|
|01/21 *||@Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 60-43|
|01/29 *||Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||W 72-69|
|02/01 *||Solanco||7:30 PM||L 45-48|
|02/02 *||@Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 51-41|
|02/04||@Hershey||7:30 PM||L 62-65|
|02/06 #||Lancaster Mennonite||7:00 PM||L 74-75|
|02/17 #||@Harrisburg||7:00 PM||W 65-56|
|02/20 #||Wilson West Lawn||10:00 AM||L 39-55|
|02/23||Carlisle||7:30 PM||L 39-52|
|02/25||McCaskey||8:00 p.m.||L 80-63|
|03/05 #||Plymouth-Whitemarsh||3:00 PM||L 41-81|