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LEBANON – Often, we associate winning with playing well – and vice versa. But there’s no rule that the two must always go hand-in-hand.

If the Lebanon boys haven’t played their best basketball yet, just imagine what might happen when they do.

On Monday night at Lebanon High School, the Cedars didn’t necessarily bring their best stuff, yet still remained unbeaten, with a 55-48 home triumph over Ephrata. Lebanon closed both the first and second quarters well, then struggled through times of sloppiness in the second half.

With the result, Lebanon improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Ephrata fell to 0-2, both overall and in the section.

“We did not play real well, to be honest,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “It was just some of the same issues we keep working through in practice, like limiting turnovers and making free throws. If we don’t improve, we’re not going to win a lot more games.

“I thought we played hard. In short spurts, we played really hard,” Speraw added. “In these three games, I feel we’re lucky to be 3-0. We know we have to play better. I don’t think the kids are going home thinking they played very well. But we played well enough. That’s the most important thing. We’re happy with that.”

It was a 9-0 burst late in the opening period that got the Cedars the lead they would never relinquish. Making quick decisions, moving the ball smartly and hitting the glass hard, Lebanon ran out to a 22-12 advantage.

Thanks to a similar 9-0 spurt at the end of the second quarter, Lebanon led 33-15 at the break. Senior big man Isaiah Rodriguez tallied all nine of LHS’ points in the sequence, as the Cedar held Ephrata without a score of any kind over the final 3:51 of the first half.

“When we played well, I thought we took care of the ball and made good decisions and didn’t try to do too much,” said Speraw. “We were getting lay-ups. We were getting easy shots. But overall, I didn’t think we shot very well.

“I thought we did a good job of rebounding,” added Speraw. “I’m not sure how many offensive rebounds Isaiah had and Kevin (Smith) was very active on the glass. That was the effort. That physical effort was there all night.”

With an even 20 points, Rodriguez paced the Lebanon scoring, while Smith struck for 11 points. The Cedars outscored the Mounts 40-24 on two-point field goals, but made just 12 of their 26 free throw attempts.

“We still have some kids finding their roles,” said Speraw. “We have to keep working at it. I think the lay-off hurt everybody. I think it hurt the level of play for everyone. It’s going to be tough. The teams that can get better quickly are the teams that are definitely going to win more games. We have to get there.”

Lebanon was up a dozen, at 34-22, before closing the third stanza with a 7-2 spurt. Rodriguez notched three of those points, Smith maneuvered inside for a deuce and Jefrandy Pena converted a lay-up.

“It was important because they turned the lights on and they turned the scoreboard on,” said Speraw. “If we’re going to come out and compete, we want to be winning at the end of the night. It was important.

“We just have to get better,” continued Speraw. “I don’t think we’ll keep winning if we play at this level. We have to raise our quality of play.”

Three minutes into the final period, the Cedars push their advantage to 48-30 on a driving lay-up from Adrian Cruz. Though Lebanon certainly didn’t finish well, the outcome was never in doubt.

“If it’s a practice, the goal is to make sure we get better,” said Speraw. “If it’s a game day, the goal is to have one more point at the end of the night. That’s where we’re at. Starting next week, the games are going to come quicker and faster.”

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