BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – It’s at the top of every goal list every year. Cedar Crest always wants to beat Lebanon.
The only thing that was different this time was that the Falcons got a trophy for doing it.
On Saturday evening, the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball team captured the championship of the 18th annual Lebanon Athletic Booster Club’s Tip-Off Tournament in its first year of competing in it. Behind 19 points from tournament MVP Cole Laney, the Falcons handled the host Cedars 58-42 in the championship game.
With the win, Cedar Crest improved to 2-0, while Lebanon High saw its overall mark evened to 1-1. The triumph was the Falcons’ seventh straight over the Cedars, in a rivalry that spans decades.
Laney was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Dylan Miller, Lebanon’s back court of Camryn Shaak and Dante Vargas, Mason Bossert of Elco and Gavin Watt of Red Lion.
The result was also Cedar Crest head man Tom Smith’s 100th as a head coach.
“Number one: it was our crosstown rival and you never want to lose that one,” said Smith. “Our kids showed up to play. They got to win a championship. It’s just a tip tournament, but it’s still a championship. We started off the season 2-0, and we have a schedule packed with good basketball teams.
“It’s been quite some time (since Cedar Crest lost to Lebanon),” continued Smith. “My first year coaching they trounced us. It’s been spirited. Every game has been a good one. The Cedar Crest-Lebanon rivalry is alive and well. Fortunately for Cedar Crest, we’ve been on the right side of them recently. It’s a battle.”
“It’s frustrating,” said Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw. “We consistently talk about the same things after these losses. I’d bet mental focus was mentioned after those last seven losses. I’ve got to do a better job. I think our kids have got to do a better job. We’re either going to make a change or we’re going to have the same result.
“I don’t know if I had any crazy revelations this weekend, other than we’re really bad in the first half,” Speraw continued. “I think a lot of it comes down to making shots. If we make more shots, we gain confidence. And if we’re more confident I think we play better overall.”
The critical moment of last night’s title tilt came early. And it was more of an answer than a turning point, but one that the Falcons held steadfast to.
For it was Lebanon which landed the first blow, in the form of a Shaq Ortiz floater, Luis Aquinos-Rios’ three-pointer and a 5-0 lead. But Cedar Crest’s response was a subsequent 14-0 run that firmly put the outcome in its hands.
The Falcons’ starting five of Laney, Miller, Blake Thomson, Tate Seyfert and Louis Minaya all netted points in the outburst. Miller’s, Thomson’s and Seyfert’s all came from downtown.
“They’re gamers,” said Smith of his charges. “They’re ready to go. They compete. This just confirmed it. They embrace the challenges we lay before them.
“This just shows we can play,” Smith continued. “Lebanon is a darn good basketball team. Their roster is loaded with seniors and big, strong kids.”
“Basketball is a game of runs,” said Speraw. “We had a little run to start. They had a bigger run. We had missed lay-up after missed lay-up. That changes the game, if we make lay-ups in the first half.
“It (the Falcons’ on-ball pressure) didn’t create a ton of turnovers,” continued Speraw. “It was more bothersome mentally. We couldn’t think our way through situations, which is disappointing. Either way we’re not putting the ball in the hoop, and obviously that’s an issue.”
Lebanon opened the second period with a bucket from Khalique Washington and two charity tosses from Ortiz to pull within 14-9 of the Falcons. But Cedar Crest held Lebanon scoreless over the next four minutes, and opened a double-digit advantage thanks to baskets by Miller, Seyfert and Laney.
“He’s letting the game come to him,” said Smith of Laney. “He’s not just scoring. He’s doing everything we ask of him. He’s a young kid, making plays for us and getting better everyday.”
“I think we do lack some leadership,” said Speraw. “It’s definitely been a discussion for us. We don’t have that one or two players who step up and get guys to follow. Hopefully that will come at some point, but you can’t force it on them.
“It was a little bit of the physical effort, but mainly just the mental effort and being mentally tough,” added Speraw. “Taking care of assignments and listening in on timeouts.”
Laney poured in a game-high 19 points and was supported by 13 points from Thomson. The Cedars got 11 points out of Aquino-Rios and ten out of Vargas.
Cedar Crest held Lebanon to just seven two-point baskets.
“We’re probably seven or eight deep at the guard position,” said Smith. “The unfortunate thing is I don’t have enough minutes for everyone. They’re going to continue to compete to get minutes. But I feel comfortable with any one of them on the court.
“We’re getting up and getting after them (opponents) full court,” added Smith. “But they’ve (his players) really bought into it.”
“I think it was a whole lot of us not playing well,” said Speraw. “You can’t expect to miss that many lay-ups against any team, much less a team that’s as good as Cedar Crest.
“I think they’re (the Falcons) definitely good,” Speraw added. “I think they’ve kind of been flying under the radar since Evan (Horn) isn’t around any more. Their ball pressure is very effective. They’re definitely a good team. But at the end of the day. we’ve got to play better.”
Cedar Crest kept coming in the third quarter. An 11-2 burst late in the stanza – courtesy of five points from Laney, a tough take by Seyfert, a Jaiden Melendez lay-in and free throws from Minaya and Logan Horn – pushed the Falcon lead to 37-18.
The closest Lebanon would come the rest of the way was 50-40, with 1:19 to go, on back-to-back treys from Shaak.
“It was kind of a perfect setting for it,” said Smith of his 100th win. “One hundred is a huge number for me. It came at a great place. I love this gym. To be honest, I didn’t say anything at all to the kids about it. It’s not about me, it’s about them. It was a personal goal of mine, but I didn’t think I’d get it this fast.
“I’ve got a great staff,” continued Smith. “We’re all on the same page. The kids understand what we’re talking about and they’re applying it.”
“They’re always well coached,” said Speraw of the Falcons. “You know they’re always going to come and play hard. That’s (100 wins) a great accomplishment. He’s (Smith) built a strong foundation. They play tough. They deserved to win.”
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2015-16 Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|12/05||@CD East||4:30 PM||W 74-68|
|12/11 *||Solanco||7:30 PM||W 58-38|
|12/14 *||@Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|12/16 *||Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 52-46|
|12/18 *||@McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 55-84|
|12/19||Central York||7:30 PM||L 69-75|
|12/21 *||Hempfield||7:30 PM||W 58-53|
|12/23 *||Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||W 59-49|
|12/28 #||Conrad Weiser||7:30 PM||W 70-44|
|12/29 #||Camp Hill||7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|01/02||Central Dauphin||7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|01/05 *||@Warwick||7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|01/08 *||Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 66-53|
|01/11 *||@Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|01/13 *||Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||W 66-46|
|01/15 *||@Lebanon||7:30 PM||W 44-32|
|01/19 *||McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 42-63|
|01/21 *||@Hempfield||7:30 PM||L 59-63|
|01/27 *||@Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||L 53-68|
|01/28 *||Warwick||7:30 PM||W 74-46|
|01/30||@Lower Dauphin||7:30 PM||W 69-54|
|02/02 *||@Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 63-51|
|02/06 #||@Lampeter-Strasburg||7:00 PM||W 59-52|
|02/10 #||Lancaster Mennonite||8:00 PM||W 58-56|
|02/11 #||McCaskey||7:00 PM||L 47-54|
|02/17 #||Hempfield||7:00 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
|12/04 #||Lancaster Mennonite||7:30 PM||W 69-56|
|12/05 #||Elco||7:30 PM||L 60-61|
|12/11 *||@Manheim Twp.||7:30 PM||W 45-32|
|12/14 *||Penn Manor||7:30 PM||W 74-56|
|12/16 *||@Warwick||7:30 PM||W 75-46|
|12/18 *||@Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 60-45|
|12/21 *||Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 68-51|
|12/23 *||@Solanco||7:30 PM||W 63-45|
|12/29 #||@Boiling Springs||3:30 PM||W 53-28|
|12/30 #||@Mechanicsburg||7:00 PM||W 45-37|
|01/02||@Governor Mifflinon||1:00 PM||L 40-50|
|01/05 *||@Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||L 61-64|
|01/08 *||Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 64-57|
|01/11 *||Hempfield||7:30 PM||W 62-56|
|01/13 *||@McCaskey||7:30 PM||L 71-82|
|01/15 *||Cedar Crest||7:30 PM||L 32-44|
|01/19 *||Conestoga Valley||7:30 PM||W 58-45|
|01/21 *||@Ephrata||7:30 PM||W 60-43|
|01/29 *||Elizabethtown||7:30 PM||W 72-69|
|02/01 *||Solanco||7:30 PM||L 45-48|
|02/02 *||@Garden Spot||7:30 PM||W 51-41|
|02/04||@Hershey||7:30 PM||L 62-65|
|02/06 #||Lancaster Mennonite||7:00 PM||L 74-75|
|02/17 #||@Harrisburg||7:00 PM||W 65-56|
|02/20 #||Wilson West Lawn||10:00 AM||L 39-55|
|02/23||Carlisle||7:30 PM||L 39-52|
|02/25||McCaskey||8:00 p.m.||L 80-63|
|03/05 #||Plymouth-Whitemarsh||3:00 PM||L 41-81|
LEBANON SPORTS BUZZ’s
Preseason All-Lebanon County Boys’ Basketball Rankings
1. Cedar Crest
3. Lebanon High
5. Northern Lebanon
7. Lebanon Catholic
Lebanon Sports Buzz’s
Preseason All-Lebanon County Boys’ Basketball Team
Isaac Blatt of Palmyra; Mason Bossert of Elco; Cole Laney of Cedar Crest; Shaquell Ortiz of Lebanon; Noah Myers of Annville-Cleona