Perhaps there was no team around Lebanon County more eager to get back on the court than the Cedar Crest boys basketball team.
After a tough loss in the Lancaster-Lebanon League final, followed by a first-round district playoff exit for the first time in four years, the Falcons are ready to get rid of that sour taste.
“The way we lost … we really got our butts kicked, and I think that led to the summer we had. They were hungry,” Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith said. “From playing with our upperclassmen the last couple of years, our practices are very intense. If there’s one thing the guys have learned is they hate to lose. It didn’t matter if it’s a drill or game, they compete. Our young guys have learned from that and they’re using it to their advantage this year.”
Though there’s a good amount of talent coming back, one notable piece will no longer be available – Evan Horn.
Smith said, “There’s no one that we have that can fill his shoes. Hopefully as a collective group, we can do what he did for us last year. Scoring’s going to have to be spread out. He just did so many things for us, but hopefully has a team, we’ll be able to replace the scoring, rebounding and distributing the ball.”
One player looking to lead the way in helping replace Horn’s absence is his younger brother Logan, who faces the challenge of playing under his brother's spotlight while trying to develop his own game.
But Logan Horn received some advice from his older sibling on approaching his first season by himself.
“We have a lot of good players on this team, so I don’t have to do too much," Horn said. "I just have to do my job, and let everyone else do theirs."
And so far, the chemistry has been building nicely for Horn among his teammates.
“Logan’s a great player. He’s doing well, he does what he can, and brings good stuff out of the team. He’s like his brother,” said Cedar Crest junior guard Tate Seyfert, who looks to also become a main contributor.
Cedar Crest will also look to junior guards Blake Thompson, Dylan Miller and Jaiden Melendez, junior forward Cole Laney, and senior Jabin Joseph.
“These guys are growing up," Smith said. "I have a bunch of guards who are tough. They're a little behind because they don’t have as much varsity experience, but as fast as they can come is as fast as we can go. They’re super talented. Getting game experience is very important for them.”
And while the Falcons try to fill the Evan Horn void, they also has been harping on two areas of the game which cost them their season – consistent shooting, and rebounding – which especially hurt them in the L-L title game loss to McCaskey.
“We just talked about being physical. That can equalize the size difference,” Smith said. “We’ve done some toughness drills in practice. We have depth that we can deal with getting fouls.”
There’s also the cliché “speed kills,” which Seyfert believes can be an advantage to wearing down the bigger teams Cedar Crest will face.
“We’re a lot quicker off and on the ball, so we can run them up and down the court,” Seyfert said. “We have a lot of guys that are quick, so when we get tired, other guys can step in and play, too.”
And when it comes to shooting consistency, Thompson says reps are essential.
“It’s constantly on to the next shot. We just have to continue getting in the gym, get shots up, and get our confidence up, and we’ll be fine,” he said.
Cedar Crest boys
Coach: Tom Smith
Last year: 19-7
Returning players: Logan Horn, So., Blake Thompson, Jr., Dylan Miller Jr., Jaiden Melendez, Jr., Cole Laney, Jr., Jabin Joseph, Sr., Tate Seyfert, Jr.
Season opener: Friday, vs Elco (at Lebanon) 6.