HERSHEY >> Even Cedar Cliff coach Jim Rowe admitted looks can be deceiving.
"A lot of people probably watch us warm up and think, 'How are these guys ... what's their record?'"
Well, the second-seeded Class AAAA team in the District 3 boys' basketball tournament is 24-2. The Colts also are the Mid-Penn champions and will boast those accolades Tuesday night at Giant Center when they play defending district champ William Penn.
To get there, the Colts dodged Northeastern (22-4) and a potential third loss, with a 50-48 quarterfinals win on Saturday.
The Bobcats' 12-0 lead to start made an upset possible. They hit five of their first six shots, but the lead never steamed past that point.
Cedar Cliff leaned on a pair of 5-foot-10 seniors to erase the deficit, which culminated in the third quarter.
Point guard Tyler Hoagland slowed Northeastern's quick pace by picking his spots to dart into the paint. When Hoagland did, he drew a foul.
By day's end, Hoagland scored a game-high 23 points mostly on 14-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.
"They're blue-collar type kids," Rowe said. "If you watch the way they practice, none of this is surprising. They do this on a consistent basis."
So this was a normal day at work for Owen Shenk.
The other senior starter had to guard Northeastern's leading scorer Kobi Nwandu. Giving up 7 inches to Nwandu, Shenk allowed him no points.
"He's a hell of a defender," Hoagland said. "I've never seen anyone defend like he can. He's shut down people all year. It's unbelievable how well he can defend."
That effort added up to Cedar Cliff's rally. The Colts trailed 14-2 before Hoagland started making the foul line his favorite travel destination.
Meanwhile, Northeastern simply cooled.
Its big lead dwindled to just three by halftime. Cedar Cliff had momentum, but Hoagland took notice during warmups before the third quarter.
"They came out with one minute left," he said. "Right after that, we decided to do a trap and got a steal. We wanted to go at them early."
The lead changed once — on Derek Ford's 3-pointer with about 3 minutes left in the third. The basket came on an assist from Hoagland, who drew praise from Northeastern coach Jon Eyster on Wednesday after his Bobcats beat Carlisle in the first round.
Northeastern got off to a similar strong start but held on to win. The culprit in Saturday's defeat wound up being 17-of-51 shooting.
Sophomore DeAireus Brown scored a team-best 17 points, while 6-6 senior post Derrick Hoffman added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hoffman fouled out with 19 seconds left, trying to defend the interior while facing a two-point deficit. Northeastern had a chance to then tie while down three but missed a deep shot. Of the Bobcats' four 3s, three came in the first quarter.
Northeastern shot 1-of-9 on 3-point attempts in the second half and suffered a scoring drought of nearly 7 minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
"Some of our guys didn't stick with the game plan of trying to get to the basket," Eyster said. "So we settled a lot."
The loss sends Northeastern to the consolation bracket, where it will play for seeding into the PIAA tournament. A familiar foe in Central York awaits Tuesday at Northern York High School.
This will be the third meeting between the YAIAA foes. Their last game came in the league semifinals, where Central rallied from 17 down in the third quarter for a 56-55 win.
Cedar Cliff draws William Penn after the Bearcats throttled Central, 71-47, earlier Saturday morning at Giant Center.
Almost instinctively, Hoagland maintained the "blue-collar" persona issued by his coach when looking ahead to Tuesday's semifinal.
"We're the underdog," Hoagland said.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.
Cedar Cliff 50, Northeastern 48
Michael Coleman 4 0-0 10, Nwandu 0 0-0 0, Maxfield 1 0-0 2, DeAireus Brown 6 4-6 17, Derrick Hoffman 5 6-6 16, Sprenkle 1 0-0 3, Zirkle 0 0-0 0, Reynolds 0 0-0 0, Reeser 0 0-0 0, Josey 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 17 10-12 48.
CEDAR CLIFF (50)
Tyler Hoagland 4 14-16 23, Ford 2 4-4 9, Owen Shenk 3 3-4 11, Deaner 0 0-0 0, Shultz 1 0-0 2, Mansfield 0 2-2 2, Lebo 1 1-2 3.
Totals — 11 24-28 50.
3-point goals — Ne 4 (Coleman 2, Brown, Sprenkle), CC 4 (Shenk 2, Ford, Hoagland).