The 2012-13 Cedar Crest boys  basketball team has some high hopes and perhaps the physical size to reach them. This year s squad consists of, front row
The 2012-13 Cedar Crest boys basketball team has some high hopes and perhaps the physical size to reach them. This year s squad consists of, front row from left, Dominic Garloff, Killian Klopp, Mike Kern, Seth Daubert, Josh Bucher and Jimmy Kern. Back row, from left, are Nick Miller, Tommy Black, Zach Livering, Andrew Eberhart, Denzel Pierre, Clay Penchard and Zach Gristick. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
Its win-loss record hasn't always indicated it, but the Cedar Crest boys' basketball program has, in general, played hard and competed well in recent years.

But the Falcons' best efforts and intentions have often been undermined by a lack of physical stature, as was the case during a better-than-it-looked 6-16 campaign. In short, please excuse the pun, Cedar Crest simply hasn't had enough height or presence in the paint to really scare anybody. Or at least not enough to be regarded as a consistently serious threat by opponents.

The times, however, appear to be a changing.

This season, for the first time in a long time, the Falcons head into a season not only with big dreams and high hopes, but also with some legitimate size to back up those hopes and dreams.

Just ask third-year head coach Tom Smith, who when he walks into the gym for practice this year sees no less than 10 players six feet tall or better looking back at him.

"It's the first time in a long time," Smith said, when the topic of his squad's welcome increase in physical size came up. "It's real nice. Just working with them all summer, there's some things that we're able to do with the size that in the past we weren't able to do. Offensively and defensively. It's definitely something that we're looking forward to having this year and in the next couple years."

The Falcons who will force the opposition to crane their necks the most this season are 6-foot-5 junior Andrew Eudy and 6-foot-6 sophomore Andrew Eberhart, both of whom are almost completely new to the night-in, night-out rigors of varsity basketball in Lancaster-Lebanon Section One.

In that regard, they have a good deal in common with the rest of the Crest roster, which will make the presence of returning senior starters Clay Penchard and Killian Klopp all the more important.

Penchard, a 6-foot-1 slasher, averaged eight points a game a season ago and Klopp, a 5-9 guard, was a serious perimeter threat while averaging a team-best 10.3 points per game.

But Smith will be counting on the duo as much for leadership and veteran presence as for any statistical contributions.

Killian Klopp, right, will be counted on to provide senior leadership and perimeter shooting for the Falcons this season. Klopp is one of just two seniors
Killian Klopp, right, will be counted on to provide senior leadership and perimeter shooting for the Falcons this season. Klopp is one of just two seniors on the team along with Clay Penchard. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)

"So far, they've done a great job of being leaders," Smith said of Penchard and Klopp. "They're the only ones that have been through the fight. I continue to tell them (the other players) are gonna look to you because you've been there and done it. So far they've answered the call.

"And not only have they been through the fight, they've been pretty successful for me. Their leadership throughout the season is gonna be key."

That's because, as noted, in addition to Eudy and Eberhart, the Falcons are low on battle-tested performers.

But Smith likes what he sees from an up-and-coming group that will include 5-6 junior point guard Seth Daubert, 6-foot juniors Tommy Black and Zach Gristick and 6-foot sophomore Nick Miller.

In addition, 6-foot-4 junior Denzel Pierre, also a track and football kid, is in the mix for playing time as are 5-6 junior Mike Kern, 5-8 sophomore, promising 6-foot freshman Evan Horn and juniors Gage Ocker and Zach Livering, who stand 6-1 and 6-0, respectively.

Collectively and all things considered, it's a group that Smith is hopeful could make the Falcons a player in Section One for the first time since the 2007-08 team went 18-6 overall.

"My expectations going into every season is to compete in Section One," Smith said. "If we can compete in Section One, everything else kinda takes care of itself. I know last year we lost a lot of close games; this year we're looking to take that step to win those close games and hopefully be looking at a playoff spot. But that's way down the road. We're going one game at a time.

"There's no down nights in Section One. That's what the young kids need to understand. But if they come to play, everyone's gonna be in for a fight against us. It's just a matter of our mental mindset coming into every game."

It's a mindset that can only be helped by the enhanced physical capabilities of the rather different-looking group that fans at the home court of the Falcon Cage will see this winter.

"There's definitely some optimism in the coaches room and in the locker room," Smith said. "The kids have put in some time all summer and played a lot of basketball. The expectations are pretty high.

"But they are all still young, and the difference between JV and varsity basketball is huge.

The size of players like the 6-foot-6 Andrew Eberhart has Cedar Crest looking for big things this season.
The size of players like the 6-foot-6 Andrew Eberhart has Cedar Crest looking for big things this season. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS JEREMY LONG)
 So if they can figure that out..."

Smith left the rest of the sentence unsaid, but the message was pretty clear: This season, beating the Falcons may well be a tall order in more ways than one.

"I think we're right in the mix," Smith said of Section One, which he believes will be led by perennial power McCaskey and feature tough customers in Hempfield and Warwick. "If a team doesn't show up to play us, I think we're gonna get 'em. I think it's the same way for any team in this league. I think we can beat anyone we play, it's just a matter of showing up every night."