LEBANON -- Wrapping paper might not make the gift, but it certainly can add some appeal. Much like win/loss records are irrelevant in rivalry games.
Local hoops fans received an early Christmas present Wednesday night when Cedar Crest and Lebanon renewed their rivalry, putting their shiny records on the line in a Lancaster-Lebanon League boys' basketball blockbuster.
Playing in front of a soldout crowd, the Falcons handed Lebanon its first loss of the season, chopping down the Cedars 67-48 at LHS Gymnasium.
The visitors caught fire from outside in the first half, connecting on 7-of-10 shots from beyond the arch. Crest carried a 12-point lead into the break and never looked back against previously unbeaten Lebanon.
Eight players scored for the Falcons, which improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. The Cedars fell to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Section Two.
"You can take the records out -- winning this game is awesome," Falcons coach Tom Smith said. "It was a battle. Lebanon has a great team, and we have a pretty good team. It feels great. The kids work hard, and this is the one they want every year."
Zach Gristick and Josh Bucher both scored a dozen to lead the Falcons, while point guard Seth Daubert joined them in double digits with 11 points. The trio combined for all seven of Crest's first half 3-pointers.
"I knew coming in that they were going to be the best team we've played so far," Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said. "They're big, they have good guards; they're deep and balanced and can shoot. They have the makings of a really good team, and they showed it tonight."
Six-foot-5 Andrew Eberhart fronted Crest a 2-0 lead, converting the first basket 1:05 after the tip. Mark Pyles, named an all-state quarterback earlier in the day, countered with a 3-pointer from the side to give Lebanon its first lead. The back-and-forth continued throughout the first, fueled by dueling student sections and a standing-room only crowd.
"Growing up in Lebanon, you have friends on both sides. One's wearing red; the other one's wearing royal," said Speraw. "It was awesome to see this many people come out and cheer on the kids, and it's great for them to be in this atmosphere."
Bucher splashed the evening's second 3-pointer, putting Crest up 5-3. Lebanon's leading scorer Jorian Ginnetto (18 points) answered with a post move to draw even. Falcon center Andrew Eudy then dunked an offensive rebound on the next possession to raise the intensity another notch.
The complexion of the contest changed late in the first with Crest leading 11-10. Gristick, a senior reserve, drained his first deep bomb to make it 14-10. He connected again on the next trip, propelling the Falcons to a 19-13 lead after 12 minutes.
"I think it was Gristick and Daubert making those huge 3's in the first half," Smith said, referring to the turning point. "They were hanging with us, then those guys hit a couple 3's in a row. It kind of sparked us and got the momentum going."
Kristian Sanchez sank a Cedar 3-pointer to start the second, but back-to-back long balls by Bucher erased any comeback bid. Bucher's second bomb of the quarter came with 3:46 left and lifted Crest to a 29-18 lead. Gristick added two more treys before halftime for a 35-25 edge.
"They were just on fire," said Speraw, "and when the other team is knocking down shots -- contested or uncontested -- it's really going to blow the game open. We just couldn't get any closer."
The Falcons led by as many as 22 in the third, building a 57-35 cushion with 4:59 remaining. Sophomore Evan Horn generated all eight of his points after the break, controlling tempo and playing in-your-face defense.
"It was just a Section Two crossover, and they happen to be our crosstown rival," Horn said, downplaying the rivalry. "It's just another game. There was more hype, but it's just another game."
Falcon forward Nick Miller also made an impact down the stretch, pumping in eight points after the break.
"We get contributions from everybody," explained Smith. "We have 10-12 guys contributing every night. Our practices are a battle. Our kids our competing at the highest level in practice, and it's now translating on to the court."
Crest knocked down 18-of-25 free throws. Lebanon made 14-of-24 from the stripe.
"I think sometimes when all the emotion gets involved, sometimes you lose the mental aspect. I think that's what we did tonight. We weren't as focused as we were the last five games we played," said Speraw. "We have some things to fix, but in the end, we'll be all right."
The Cedars travel to Conestoga Valley on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Falcons host Manheim Township.
Notes >> The Falcons have won three straight against the Cedars, including last year's 49-46 double-overtime contest at the Falcon Cage. Killian Klopp led the Falcons with 13 points and Eudy had 10 in a game Lebanon led 16-9 at halftime. "¦ Cedar Crest holds an 8-7 edge in 15 meetings since 2001. Lebanon holds a slight edge in scoring 832-829.Cedar Crest (67)
Daubert 2 5-6 11, Kintzer 0 0-0 0, Bucher 3 5-6 12, Gristick 4 0-0 12, Miller 4 0-2 8, Kern 0 0-0 0, Frost 0 0-0 0, Livering 0 0-0 0, Garloff 0 0-0 0, Pierre 0 0-0 0, Eudy 2 4-4 8, Horn 2 4-7 8, Ocker 0 0-0 0, Eberhart 3 0-0 6, Gonzalez 1 0-0 2. Totals - 21 18-25 67.
Sanders 0 0-0 0, Sanchez 2 1-1 6, Eisenhour 2 0-0 5, Pyles 2 0-0 6, De La Cruz 0 0-0 0, Escoto 0 0-0 0, Lopez 0 1-4 1, Ortiz 1 3-4 5, Reich 1 4-8 7, Ginnetto 6 5-7 18. Totals - 14 14-24 48.
Cedar Crest 19 16 13 19 - 67
Lebanon 13 10 9 16 - 48
3-point goals - Cedar Crest 7 (Gristick 4, Daubert 2, Bucher). Lebanon 6 (Pyles 2, Sanchez, Eisenhour, Reich, Ginnetto).