The Cedars came out with guns blazing, overwhelming Elco early to claim a 64-52 victory in the first round of the Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament held at Palmyra Area High School.
Relocated due to renovations at LHS, the tournament resumes tonight at Lebanon Valley College when the Cedars and Erie Strong Vincent hook up in a 7:30 p.m. championship tilt. The Colonels pulled away from host Palmyra, 59-54, in the first half of Friday's doubleheader to advance.
"Right now, every court is our home court. It doesn't matter where we play," Cedars head coach Tim Speraw said. "When we go on the road, it's going to be our home court. That's pretty much the way were thinking."
Lebanon made itself cozy almost immediately against Elco, bolting out to a 26-10 lead in the first quarter. The Cedars never trailed in the contest, holding leads ranging from 19 to seven points.
Senior guard Evan Zimmerman initiated the early spurt, drilling a trio of 3-pointers in the first 3:15 to put Lebanon up 12-2. The 1-2 punch of dynamic guard Drey Murray and all-over-the-floor forward Josh Spaulding eventually got into the act, combining for 25 points and countless steals. A total of eight Cedars scored at least two points.
"I was more impressed with our defense than our offense," added Speraw. "Our defense transitioned into our offense. We got a couple layups, started to run a little bit and with the flow of the game we were able to get kickouts for open shots. We got clean looks and that was the key."
Trailing by 16, Elco eventually slowed down the red and blue, outscoring Lebanon 30-22 in the middle quarters. Raider center Cameron Paul, a 6-foot-5 wide body, spearheaded the attack, ending with a team-high 15 points. Freshman forward Caleb Buchmoyer also reached double digits with 11 points, nine coming via long ball.
"It felt big, really big," Elco head coach Brad Conners said of the Cedars' first-quarter spurt. "It didn't feel like the kids were ready to go. It even felt like that in the locker room Nobody knew what to expect, even the kids didn't."
Elco, which has just two seniors, chopped the lead down to as low as seven, 41-34, at 4:16 of the third quarter on a free throw by Derek Miller. Lebanon, though, never let them any closer.
"They didn't fold at all," said Speraw. "I thought (Elco) played really well. If you're in the game in the fourth quarter, you're doing something right. For low numbers, Brad's doing a phenomenal job with those kids. It was kind of a chess match there for a little bit.
Murray opened the fourth quarter with 3-ball from the top of the key and followed with a steal and layup to make it 53-40. Buchmoyer then traded long balls with Jorian Ginnetto, prompting another mini-Murray led explosion.
The Cedars' on-court leader started the sequence with a slick wraparound assist to Ginnetto and finished it with a no-look over-the-shoulder leave to a driving Jeremy De La Cruz. Lebanon's largest lead of 63-44 came with 2:14 left in the game.
As for Erie Strong Vincent and Palmyra, the Cougars had controlled the tempo for the first three quarters and took a 44-43 lead into the fourth. That's when the Colonels began to work the offensive boards.
Erie outscored Palmyra 16-10 over the final eight minutes, including going on a game-deciding 7-0 run to break a 51-51 draw with 3:16 remaining.
"Give (Erie) credit for their level of preparation and ability to respond," said a disappointed Palmyra coach Pete Conrad, noting bus troubles resulted in a six-hour ride for the Colonels.
Adam Newhard led the way for Palmyra with a 17 points. Trey Baker (13) and Logan Stovall (11) also chipped in with double digits, and point guard Shaun Robinson added six assists and three steals.
Palmyra plays Elco at 6 p.m. at Lebanon Valley College in the consolation round.
Notes: Lebanon High School will induct the Class of 2012 into the Athletic Hall of Fame prior to the tip of the championship game.