BY JEFF FALK SOUTH LEBANON – It is the only game on the schedule that possesses the ability to bring out the best – and worst – in teams and individuals. In these parts, it’s known as ‘The Rivalry’.
On Thursday night, the Lebanon girls’ basketball team played its most inspired game of the young season. And its counterpart from Cedar Crest, its most disappointing.
At the Falcon Cage, the Cedars parlayed some tenacious defense and a dominating scoring advantage through the middle quarters into a 47-32 victory over Cedar Crest. Already sitting on a 30-22 cushion, Lebanon High tallied the final eight points of the third quarter to put the outcome out of reach.
The win was the first-ever for Lebanon’s rookie head coach Ben Brewer and it lifted his squad to 1-2 on the year and 1-0 in Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Cedar Crest plummeted to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in Section One of the L-L.
“It’s one of those days when your friends become your enemies,” said Brewer of ‘The Rivalry’. “Half of my freinds went to Cedar Crest. But on this night, my friends rooted against me. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been associated with. It means a lot to the kids. It’s one of those games that you can’t talk it down. It’s not just another game.”
“It’s the one game you don’t want to lose,” said Cedar Crest’s Jim Donmoyer, himself a first-year head coach. “If I circled games on the schedule, this would be one of them. I see these people all the time. This is the worst loss we had. It’s cross town. All these kids know each other. Lebanon’s a small place. And it’s been eight or nine years since they beat us. It’s a big deal when they beat us.”
There came a point early in the second quarter that something seemed to click for the Cedars, that the proverbial light went on. It originated from their defense and spilled over into their offense.
Facing a seven-point hole, Lebanon tied the score at 13 with seven unanswered points early in the second. Then the Cedars closed out the first half with a 9-2 burst- which included points from four different sources – to take a 25-19 margin to the intermission.
“Do you know what it was?” said Brewer. “We improved from game one to game two. But (tonight) we made some shots and we got some stops. You could see the confidence grow. They (his players) were reaching out for something and they got it in that stretch.
“Honestly, I thought we played better as a team,” Brewer continued. “They picked each other up. They channelled their emotions in the right way and they trusted in their teammates. I can’t wait for the next game. There’s definitely some excitement in that locker room.”
“At this point and time, they (the Cedars) played their best game,” said Donmoyer. “They did anything they wanted to do, and we left them.
“That wasn’t the Lebanon team I saw play Northern Lebanon and Palmyra,” Donmoyer added. “I told our kids, ‘If you keep them off the boards, they’re not going to hurt us outside of the lane.’ But they did. I’m really disappointed in how we played.”
Cedar senior Sadie Eisenhour led all scorers with 13 points, while teammate Shaela Shellenhamer contributed ten. The focus of Lebanon’s defensive efforts, Cedar Crest senior Taylor Ford, was limited to seven points. The Falcons were without seniors Sierra Wheat and Kourtni Schaeur.
“It was not injury-related. They weren’t available,” said Donmoyer of Wheat and Schaeur. “They’re two senior starters. That’s 40 percent of your starting lineup, and it changes your substitutions. But that’s not the reason we lost. We should’ve won. Their kids wanted it more. They did execute better than we did.”
“It’s my first win with my team,” said Brewer. “It’s the first win we got together. It means a lot to our team to get that first win. We’re 1-0 in the section. They have one of the better scorers in Section One (Ford) and we held her to seven points.
“There’s a lot of emotions right now,” added Brewer. “It was personally a rough week and a great week. My grandmother passed away, so I missed some practices and my coaches stepped in for me. We preach we’re going to get better as a team. We talk about poise and composure. That shows there’s a lot of potential there.”
On an Astin Toms jumper and a Gabbi Donmoyer trey, Cedar Crest netted the final five points of the opening period to snap a six-all deadlock. And when Donmoyer knocked down another jumper to open the second quarter, the Falcons had a 13-6 lead.
“They’re young,” said Brewer of the Falcons. “They’ve got a great scorer. They have a lot of talent. That wasn’t the same Cedar Crest team you’re going to see the rest of the year. They had some different players tonight. They’re going to win some games that people don’t expect them to.”
“We came out ready to play,” said Donmoyer. “They didn’t do anything surprising. We played well for the first quarter and a half. After that, our shots weren’t falling and the kids were getting tight. Sometimes kids weren’t looking to take shots. After that, we didn’t play well at all.”
“It’s three games into it,” Donmoyer concluded. “We’re 0-3. Everybody on our schedule is good. It’s not like we get a break any time soon.”