BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Given the events of the last two meetings, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team could beat McCaskey. But the creative Falcons would love a chance to try.
On Tuesday night at ‘The Cage’, the Falcons were blown out by the Red Tornado for the second time in four weeks, this time 63-42, in a battle for the top spot in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Cedar Crest never seriously threatened McCaskey, after the Red Tornado opened a double-digit, first-quarter lead.
The outcome was hauntingly similar to Cedar Crest’s 84-55 setback in Lancaster on December 18. But the good news for the Falcons is that despite those results they are still tied with McCaskey for first-place in Section One, with a 10-2 record.
The Falcons, who are seated fourth in the District Three Class AAAA power rankings, are now 14-3 overall. McCaskey, which is situated seventh in those same Class AAAA power rankings, jumped to 12-4 on the season.
Cedar Crest is the two-time defending Lancaster-Lebanon League and Section One champions, and both times have gone through McCaskey to earn its hardware. If the Falcons have any designs on a three-peat, it would seem that the Red Tornado will be the team to beat again.
“Yeah, it was very similar,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tommy Smith of the first meeting with McCaskey. “McCaskey came out ready to play, and we didn’t. They were better both nights. But yes, we can beat them. Absolutely we can.
“If they (his players) are going to accomplish their goals, they can’t come out and play like that,” continued Smith. “I don’t know if the game was too big for them, or if it was a lack of energy. The message to them was: ‘We’ve got to fix it’.”
Time and time again, McCaskey ball-handlers beat their Falcon defenders off the dribble. Cedar Crest also experienced difficulties figuring out the Red Tornado’s active 3-2 zone.
The Falcons tallied the first points of the game on a Cole Laney lay-in. But it would prove to be their only lead of the evening.
McCaskey rattled off the next 15 points, and after a quarter of action led 18-4.
“They were better than us tonight,” said Smith. “They were better.
“I think we can correct it (defending the dribble),” added Smith. “The best part of our game is ball-control defense and pressuring the ball. But we didn’t execute, offensively or defensively.”
Eventually, the Red Tornado’s lead reached 21-7, before the Falcons made a run. That run was an 8-1 burst in the middle of the second period, one which pulled the Falcons to within 22-15, on a Blake Thomson drive, two minutes before the intermission.
During that six-minute stretch, the Falcons’ man-to-man defense was effective in slowing the Red Tornado. On the other end, Cedar Crest was getting baskets from Raymie Ferriera, Evan Horn and Laney.
But McCaskey took the edge off Cedar Crest’s momentum by notching the final five points of the first half. It was McCaskey 27-15 in the locker room.
“Defensively, we played OK in spurts,” said Smith. “I think when we got back into the game, we got ‘stops’ and got into transition.
“Yeah, it was trying to put something together, a group that would jell,” Smith continued. “They were there, and we weren’t.”
Horn led the Cedar Crest scoring with 16 points, but no other Falcon scored more than six. McCaskey, which outscored Cedar Crest 48-28 inside ‘the arc’, received more balanced scoring.
“Yeah, we were prepared for the zone,” said Smith. “We weren’t prepared for it the first time. But we’ve been practicing against it ever since we got spanked by them down there.
“We need to get the ball in the corner and attack the middle,” Smith added. “We did it early. We didn’t attack it by driving into the paint.”
Cedar Crest opened the second half on an 11-4 run and shaved a 12-point Red Tornado lead to 31-26, with 3:47 of the third period to go. Horn recorded seven points in the run, on a three-pointer and a couple of stick-backs, and Iziah Trimble contributed a pair of buckets.
But this time McCaskey’s answer was a 13-2 run, and the visitors carried a 44-28 advantage to the fourth quarter.
“They score in spurts,” said Smith of the Red Tornado. “We had to get some ‘stops’. It was just some breakdowns, offensively and defensively.”
With the Falcons unable to consistently come up with those stops, McCaskey was more than willing to trade baskets with them. Three minutes into the final period, the Red Tornado enjoyed a 54-36 cushion.
“I hope this sinks in,” said Smith. “I don’t think this was our best performance. We’ve got to get better. We’re in a playoff stretch. We still control our own destiny. If we want to be champions, we can’t play like this.”
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Section One Standings
2015-16 Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|4:30 PM||W 74-68|
|7:30 PM||W 58-38|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 52-46|
|7:30 PM||L 55-84|
|7:30 PM||L 69-75|
|7:30 PM||W 58-53|
|7:30 PM||W 59-49|
|7:30 PM||W 70-44|
|7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|7:30 PM||W 66-53|
|7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|7:30 PM||W 66-46|
|7:30 PM||W 44-32|
|7:30 PM||L 42-63|
|7:30 PM||Hempfield High School|
|7:30 PM||Manheim Twp. High School|
|7:30 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
|7:30 PM||Lower Dauphin High School|
|7:30 PM||Penn Manor High School|
PIAA District Three
Class AAAA Power Rankings