When a team has the amount of talent and depth as the Cedar Crest Lady Falcons do, there’s not a whole lot that can keep it from a deep postseason run – except for maybe one. Then you harp on it during the ensuing offseason and preseason to make sure that one thing doesn’t occur again.
For Cedar Crest, it was not being able to handle presses in its losses in the league and district semifinals, and its ouster early in the state playoffs.
But like in any case of losing, there are lessons to be learned, and it’s still another experience gained for a team that isn’t far from being a champion.
“They’re all a year older. In those situations they took our best ball handler away, and we needed someone else to step up and handle the ball, which didn’t happen,” Falcons sixth-year coach Jim Donmoyer said.
That best ball handler is senior point guard Ariel Jones, who’s coming off another monster season, including 17.1 points per game.
The way to fix it – better ball handling skills from everyone else.
“We’re working a lot more on handling it, putting in press breakers," Donmoyer said. "Those two games in my mind come back as, ‘Woah, those were winnable.’ But we still stress the fundamentals, too. It’s just about repetition - doing the defensive and offensive drills, shooting drills, ball handling skills - if we continue to do that, that’s the key.”
Those players looking to continue stepping up include senior forward Alyssa Austin, who continues to be a dominant presence in the post, along with junior guards Jade Rolon, Gracen Donmoyer and Rachel Witherite.
“Everyone has a role just like they did last year, maybe more. We’ll have people to complement Ariel and Alyssa,” Donmoyer said. “The key is understanding what their role is, especially in certain circumstances. They have to buy into being a team. By the time the season comes around, it’ll all be figured out.”
And Jones has every confidence her teammates will be up for the challenge.
“I just feel like if they start to point me out and double team me, we have more guards to handle the ball,” she said. “None of them are scared. All five people can handle the ball and take care of it, so we were not a one person team.”
Jones, having already accomplished so much, is looking to do one thing and one thing only – win a championship.
The path to achieving that goal is becoming more of a vocal leader.
“I want the girls to feel like they have someone to look up to and go to if they need help," Jones said. "I don’t want to lose. I want to have a great season like last year and make it as far as we can because it’s my last year. I’m going to do whatever I can to get to that point.
“I think us three seniors, especially me and Alyssa in our fourth year, and Kelsey (Guth), just need to lead the team and show them that we’re capable of being great like last year and get to the point where we all can work together to get to where we want to be.”
And as long as the senior leadership is there, along with everyone again buying into the system, and, of course, good health, Donmoyer says the sky’s the limit for his team.
“We have a good mix of kids this year. I really don’t anticipate a drop-off, but you have to play the games,” Donmoyer said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do and if we can go further than we did last year.”
Cedar Crest girls
Coach: Jim Donmoyer
Last year: 22-6
Returning players: Ariel Jones, Sr., Alyssa Austin, Sr., Jade Rolon, Jr., Gracen Donmoyer, Jr., Rachel Witherite, Jr.
Season opener: Friday, vs. East Pennsboro, 6.