BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Cedar Crest is as athletic as any boys’ basketball team in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading and York area. But that is not what separates the Falcons from the rest of District Three.
What they thrive on is their smarts, their instincts, their character, their resolve and their strong work ethic.
It’s not the size of the Falcon in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the Falcon.
On Tuesday at Giant Center, Cedar Crest continued to look like the best Class AAAA team in District Three, and by so doing, earned a chance to prove that it is. The Falcons employed their athleticism, their physicality and a few of their unique intangibles to dispose of Reading 58-49, in the semifinals of the District Three Quad-A postseason.
Following a somewhat uneven start, Cedar Crest turned up the defensive intensity of its man-to-man defense late in the first half to establish a bit of a working margin in the locker room. Then after fending off a few Red Knight rushes, the Falcons put them away early in the fourth quarter.
The win earned top-seeded Cedar Crest a shot at redemption for the one thing that has been hanging over its head for the entire season – last year’s heartbreaking loss to York High in the District Three Class AAAA final. Cedar Crest will carry a 26-2 overall record into Saturday’s 1 p.m. rematch with the third-seeded Bearcats, who took care of second-seeded Cedar Cliff 60-55, back at Giant Center.
The setback ended fifth-seeded Reading’s 17-game win streak and dropped it to 23-5 on the year.
“We’re as athletic as anyone we come up against,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “One through five, and even deep into our bench, we can match up with anyone. I don’t know if we’re under appreciated as athletes or not.
“I would say we definitely have gotten better as the year has gone on,” continued Smith. “At spots, we haven’t played our best. But we’ve gotten better every day.”
“We know we have real good athletes, in our starting lineup and on our bench,” said Falcon senior center Andrew Eberhart. “Evan’s (Horn) very athletic, and so is Soren (Frost) and Nick (Miller). But it’s the same with York, the same with Reading, the same with Harrisburg, the same with McCaskey, even the same with Spring Grove. We know how to play athletic teams.
“Our biggest strength is we’re a family,” Eberhart continued. “We play as one. We’re not a team where the same kid scores every night. We have four guys who average around ten points. We play for each other. That’s how it is when you’re a team. That’s how it is when you’re a family.”
Reading closed to within 39-36 of the Falcons with 2:18 of the third quarter remaining. But Cedar Crest answered with a hard ‘take’ to the rim by Horn and a Miller jumper to close the frame with a seven-point margin.
Then the Falcons held the Red Knights without a score of any sort for a 4:31 stretch early in the final period, while building a 51-38 bulge. Miller scored on a stick back, Horn converted another drive down the lane and Eberhart registered four inside points.
Cedar Crest went a modest three-for-eight at the foul line over the final 1:40.
“I didn’t think they could beat us on their first shot,” said Smith of the Red Knights. “Night in and night out, defensively we bring it. We brought it tonight. They (the Red Knights) made some tough shots.
“Our game plan was to keep those guys out of the lane,” added Smith. “After we settled down, they (the Red Knights) stopped making ‘threes’. ”
“We came out pretty slow in the first half,” said Eberhart. “We weren’t defensive rebounding and we weren’t making our free throws. We talked about it at halftime. We just had to get back to playing our game.”
With his 15 points, Eberhart showed the way for the Falcons. Miller tossed in 13 Crest points, Horn collected 11 points and senior guard Josh Bucher popped for ten.
The Falcons made good on only seven of their 18 free throw attempts, which was only slightly better than Reading’s four-for-ten charity tossing. Reading was without the services of suspended sophomore star Lonnie Walker.
“He’s a special player,” said Smith of Walker. “He makes everyone around him better. They’re (the Red Knights) a different team with him. We didn’t talk about it. But I’m sure they (his players) were looking forward to playing against him.
“I thought Evan rebounded well,” Smith continued. “I thought he could get to the rim any time he wanted. I thought he played really well in the third quarter. He was Evan Horn. He did some Evan Horn things.”
“Coach Smith prepared us really well,” said Eberhart. “If we had a chance to play against Lonnie Walker, we wanted to play against him. We want to play against the best players.”
After facing a couple of two-possession deficits in the opening period, the Falcons opened the second stanza with a short jumper by Horn, a Raymie Ferriera inside maneuver and a Miller technical free throw to take a 16-15 edge.
Later in the quarter, Eberhart returned from some early foul trouble and his defensive presence sparked an 11-0 burst that gave Crest a 27-20 lead. The 6-7 senior center also notched five points in the run, while Miller, Frost and Horn added buckets as well.
“I thought the difference was the tempo of our offense,” said Smith. “We got some defensive stops and we were able to get some ‘one-and-dones’. And we did a nice job on the boards. At halftime we talked about picking the tempo up on both sides of the ball. I think it wore their guards out as well.”
“I don’t know that we played our best game,” continued Smith. “But the kids fought through it. They did the things they needed to do. That’s what good teams do.”
“I think it was us getting back to our pace,” said Eberhart. “We tried to get back to playing our game. Our defense is a little different when I’m in there. I’m a little longer and I can change some shots.”
Horn’s drive 5:16 into the contest gave Cedar Crest an 8-7 edge. But Reading closed the opening period on an 8-3 spree to assume a 15-11 lead.
“They’re the best team in the district right now,” said Smith of the Bearcats of York High. “They won it last year. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. There’s no doubt that that’s who they (his players) wanted to play.
“What I remember about last year was the fourth quarter,” added Smith. “We had the game won. But we made mistakes, missed foul shots and turned the ball over. And their kid made a good shot.”
“We know they’re a good team, and we’re a similar team. They’re really athletic,” said Eberhart of the Bearcats. “We know this is one of our goals. We wanted to go undefeated at home, win the section and win the (Lancaster-Lebanon) league. This is our fourth and final goal before states.
“Last year, York came back on us and beat us,” Eberhart added. “That’s definitely one of the main reasons we wanted to play so hard in the semis. We’d have it no other way. We think they’re a real tough team. Round Two.”
Cedar Crest 2014-15 Results
|6:30 PM||W 62-44|
|5:00 PM||W 70-60|
|7:30 PM||W 50-48|
|7:30 PM||W 65-27|
|7:30 PM||W 68-53|
|7:30 PM||W 74-45|
|7:30 PM||W 57-48|
|7:30 PM||W 46-43|
|7:30 PM||W 80-61|
|7:30 PM||W 53-42|
|7:30 PM||W 58-56|
|7:30 PM||W 55-33|
|7:30 PM||W 45-44|
|7:30 PM||W 66-23|
|7:30 PM||W 67-52|
|7:30 PM||W 59-42|
|7:30 PM||L 54-58|
|7:30 PM||W 58-54|
|7:30 PM||W 52-38|
|7:30 PM||L 57-60|
|7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|8:00 PM||W 68-46|
|7:00 PM||W 56-33|
|7:00 PM||W 45-40|
|7:00 PM||W 70-66|
|8:00 PM||W 52-38|
|1:00 PM||W 76-49|
|8:00 PM||W 58-49|