The Cedar Crest boys' basketball team opened the new year flat on both ends of the court, falling 71-46 to Hempfield on Wednesday night in South Lebanon.
The Falcons kept it close for a quarter before the Black Knights ran away for the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One victory. The loss leaves Crest at 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.
Hempfield (6-3 and 3-1) trailed twice in the opening minutes - 2-0 and 4-3 - but outscored the hosts in every quarter, including 25-10 in the fourth.
"Hempfield is a very good basketball team, and if we bring our 'A' game, we beat them," Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. "Anything but our 'A' game, we lose by 20-plus like we did tonight."
Crest hung around in the first quarter despite not connecting on a field goal in the first 7:54. The Falcons survived by making 7-of-8 free throws and using Evan Horn's layup in the closing seconds to make it a four-point game, 13-9.
"I just don't think that we had it tonight," added Smith. "Blame it on whatever you want. The kids weren't ready to play. I'll take that on me, I got to get the kids ready to play."
In the second, the Black Knights' lead continued to swell courtesy of Tyrell Wickersham (game-high 17 points) and company. Hempfield placed four players in double digits as Zach Walter (14), Drew Johnson (12) and Dylan Bleacher (11) joined Wickersham, a 5-foot-8 junior guard.
"There wasn't anything they were doing that we weren't prepared for," Smith said. "There wasn't anything that they were doing that was giving us fits. It's just they were outworking us. I think this is the first game all year that we were outworked. That's not their character. It's not."
The Falcons trailed 29-20 at halftime due in large part to a half dozen missed layups and Hempfield's 25 rebounds (11 offensive).
"I don't care who you're playing, you're not winning any basketball game when that's the case," Smith said regarding the rebounding disparity. "Section One basketball is good basketball. If you don't show up to play, this is what happens. I give all the credit in the world to my kids because they worked extremely hard, but tonight for some reason they did not."
Andrew Eudy provided the lone highlight for Crest with a one-handed dunk midway through the third quarter to cut the deficit to 33-29. The 6-foot-5 junior's flush also ignited coach Danny Walck's Black Knights, who reeled off a 9-0 run following the throwdown. Hempfield led 46-36 after three quarters.
Senior Clay Penchard scored the first points of the fourth quarter to make it a single-digit game, but the Falcons never could get any closer.
"This was a playoff game for us," explained Smith. "For us to get where we want to be, these are the games we need to win. Hempfield and McCaskey have been the best for a long time in Section One, and if we want to be the best, we have to beat the best. Certainly tonight, we didn't come out and play like that."
The Falcons host Warwick at the Falcon Cage in South Lebanon at 7:30 p.m.