The Cedars strung together their sixth straight win Friday night, dumping Elizabethtown 47-43 in a season-saving Lancaster-Lebanon Section Two roller coaster. The contest featured 10 ties and 13 lead changes, including senior Josh Spaulding's second game-clinching bucket of the week with 1:27 remaining.
"You look down the tunnel, and either you make a path or you go down one," Spaulding said of the red-hot Cedars' recent turnaround. "We're making our own, and that's what we're going on right now."
Lebanon's victory keeps both its district and league playoff hopes alive with two games left in the regular season. The Cedars (11-9 overall, 8-7 in the L-L) play Garden Spot in a non-league makeup tonight before wrapping up with Ephrata on Tuesday in the finale. Cocalico (12-10, 7-8), which trails Lebanon by a game for second place in the section, kept pace with an 85-82 triple-overtime victory over the Mounts on Friday.
"At this point, every game is the season for us," relieved Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw said. "We knew six games ago that we probably couldn't afford to lose any, and all we kept talking about was to win the next game. The next game is our playoff game. So far our kids have come through and answered the bell every time."
Spaulding continued to sizzle down the stretch, dropping a game-high 19 points for the Cedars. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-4 forward drained a buzzer-beater to knock off Cocalico 56-55 for sole possession of second place.
Against E-town, Spaulding scored 10 in the first half before heading to the bench with three fouls. He added his other nine in a decisive fourth-quarter stretch.
"We just came out and played hard," said Spaulding. "Looking for a postseason, trying to keep my senior year going, you know."
Lebanon jumped ahead early behind a pair of 3-pointers from point guard Kristian Sanchez. However, the two-time section champion Bears (14-6 and 12-3) created a slew of turnovers to rally back for an 8-8 draw after eight minutes.
In the second, Spaulding scored four of the visitor's five baskets to take the largest lead of the evening, 18-12, with 3:30 left before the break.
Elizabethtown, celebrating Senior Night, again battled back at the end of the quarter, relying on a pair of Tyler Koser two-handed dunks to take a 19-18 lead into the locker room.
"Give credit to E-town, they didn't fold. They kept coming at us and at us," said Speraw.
Koser scored nine points in the first half and led the hosts with a dozen. Tyler Rosepink chipped in with nine, and Lucas Jewell and Kirby Breault both ended with seven for the Bears.
With the hosts leading 28-27 after three, the squads exchanged the lead five times in the final frame. The last draw, 40-40 with 2:45 left, came on a driving and-one conversion by Jewell. E-town's final advantage came at 43-43 following an and-one conversion by Rosepink with 1:27.
Down one, Spaulding drove to the rack to regain the lead, and Drew Murray made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe on the next trip to make it 45-43. Rosepink could not hold volley, rimming out a point-blank layup with 30.3 seconds to go. Sanchez then closed out the game with pair of free throws to give him 11.
"I couldn't be prouder of their effort and their enthusiasm," said Speraw. "I was proud how they played through everything that was thrown at us. I thought we showed some maturity. We talked about that a bunch of times. Just keep your composure and play the game, and don't get caught up in anything."
Junior forward Jorian Ginnetto also woke up in the second half, scoring all 10 of his points, including two key 3-pointers. Murray, the Cedars' leading scorer on the season, was limited to three points in the loss.
"That's part of seeing Drey grow up," added Speraw. "In the past, if he's not shooting well, he's not playing well. That gets in his head a little bit. I couldn't be more proud of him.
"He scored three points, but his contributions were endless tonight. That's big for him on a confidence level, but it's also big for him as a person just growing up."