SOUTH LEBANON – They’ve got some things to clean up. They’ve got some things to fix. They’ve got some adjustments to make.
After that, then they can get down to work.
Before the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team can even think about wins and losses, or the postseason, the Falcons have to improve and become more competitive.
On Thursday night at ‘The Cage’, Cedar Crest endured another disturbing setback, a 59-44 non-league home loss to Elizabethtown. The Falcons were fine for the entire first half, that is until the Bears ramped up their zone defense at the start of the second.
Cedar Crest’s third straight loss dropped it to a precarious 2-5 overall. The Falcons were situated 21st in the latest District Three Class AAAAAA power rankings, which determines the 12-team field for its postseason tournament.
Cedar Crest has qualified for the District Three playoffs in each of the last eight years.
With the victory, Elizabethtown improved to 4-5 on the year.
“The streak is a nice accomplishment,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “What’s important to me right now is getting this right for the kids, who’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. It’s a tough situation, but everyone is going through it. We’re not thinking about the streak.
“Coming into the season, my expectations for this group were not out of line,” Smith added. “They were fine. We’ve had to deal with things a little more than most. We had a case (Coronavirus) shut down our program for ten days. There have been bumps in the road. But this is a great group of kids. They’re going to keep battling. They’re going to get better.”
The outcome pretty much hinged on that key stretch right after halftime, when E-town’s zone held Cedar Crest without a point for a span of 2:12. The Bears tallied seven straight points to break a 20-all tie, then later in the third quarter, they opened a 38-26 bulge.
“They played it earlier in the first half, and at halftime we made adjustments,” said Smith. “The kids just didn’t knock down shots. They did what we asked them to do. They (the Bears) stayed in it, and when you keep missing shots, it’s deflating. Almost every single game this year we’ve had trouble putting the ball in the basket. It happened to us again in the third quarter.”
The Falcons cut their deficit to eight points twice in the fourth quarter – on a steal and lay-in from I’zaa Reyes-Vega and a short jumper by Max Scipioni. But over the final 6:15 of the contest, Elizabethtown outscored Cedar Crest 19-12.
“The biggest thing is we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said Smith. “We’ve got to get this thing turned around. We’ve got some things to clean up. We’ve got to keep grinding.
“We’ve got to figure out ways to put the ball in the basket,” Smith continued. “Our kids play well enough. Our kids play well enough on the defensive side of the ball. We will figure it out. It’s one step forward, everyday.”
Chris Danz’s 11 points paced the Falcon offense. Elizabethtown outscored Cedar Crest 42-16 on two-point field goals, and the Falcons converted just one of their four free throw attempts.
In their seven games this season, the Falcons have averaged just over 40 points per outing.
“If you ask me, every game is a must-win,” said Smith. “That’s my mentality. I hate to lose. My guys hate to lose. For us to qualify and meet our goals, this was pretty close to a must-win.”
In jumping out to an early four-point lead, Cedar Crest scored its first 12 points of the game from beyond the arc, and senior Matt Smith accounted for nine of those. But Smith went down with an injury near the end of the opening period – never to return – and Cedar Crest experienced a 6:17 dry spell the spilled over into the second quarter.
“It changes things a lot,” said Smith of Smith’s absence. “He’s an important two-way player. He’s long and athletic. Him going down in the first quarter certainly didn’t help us. He just does so much for us, both offensively and defensively.”
The Bears enjoyed a handful of modest, one-possession leads in the second quarter. But a Danz three-pointer forged the 20-20 tie at the break.
“The biggest thing is our ability to make shots,” said Smith. “We’ve struggled to score in different situations. The kids play hard. I also think our defense creates some of our offense. When we’re doing that, that’s when we’re playing at our best.”
at Manheim Township
at Cedar Crest
at Cedar Crest
at Cedar Crest
at Cedar Crest
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