Highlights of the Falcons' 58-42 win over the Cedars in the Lebanon HS Tip-Off Tournament Championship Game. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
His team already knew they were heading into a pretty big game, facing a cross-town rival in its tip-off tournament championship game.
But for Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith, there was a little more to play for – and he didn’t even tell his team what it was until the game was over.
No matter what they did or didn’t know, the Falcons certainly came ready to play anyway, as they did the night before, rolling to the Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament title with a 58-42 win over the Cedars, earning Smith’s 100th career win as Falcons coach.
“It was a perfect setting for me,” Smith said. “It couldn’t have happened at a better place. I love this gym. Winning a championship, too, is the perfect storm.”
And Smith’s reason for not telling his team was he wanted the night focused on the student-athletes who made a prestigious goal of his become a reality.
“It’s all about the players and I was happy for them,” Smith said. “I thought we played one heck of a basketball game. We won a championship even though it’s a tip tournament. But it’s still a championship and that’s very important to us. It was great for them to be a part of it.”
But the cat was out of the bag once Smith’s family began celebrating at the final horn.
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think too much about 100,” Smith said. “I didn’t think about it until I saw my son running around with his No. 100 jersey on. It was pretty cool.”
With an accomplishment like this being difficult to achieve, Smith always thought it was possible to set No. 100 as a personal goal.
“I've got a great staff and I’ve had a great staff ever since I’ve been hired,” he said. “We’re all on the same page. The kids understand what we’re talking about. Not only are they practicing their butts off in practice, but they’re taking what they’re doing and applying it to the game.”
One of those standout players has been Cole Laney, who led all scorers with 19 points on the way to being named tournament MVP. And he credits all his success to Smith and the Falcons’ coaching staff.
“I know it means a lot to him and it means a lot to the guys,” Laney said. “We know we’re the best team in Lebanon. We all dreamed of being a part of it, and its surreal to finally be a part of it. We continue to win because of the way they coach us. It’s flawless.”
Laney added, on being named MVP, “It means a lot. I feel like I’m recognized finally. It could’ve gone to any of us because we all have our nights. I had two in a row and that’s just how it went. I felt like I was in a rhythm, especially pregame.”
Cedar Crest’s Dylan Miller was also named as an all-tournament team selection, along with Elco’s Mason Bossert, Lebanon’s Camryn Shaak and Dante Vargas, and Red Lion’s Gary Hunt.
It looked as though the Cedars would take early control after a 5-0 run to start – but the Falcons had other ideas, taking advantage of four straight Lebanon turnovers and storming back with a 14-0 run to end the first quarter, never looking back from there.
Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said, “If we make a couple layups in that stretch, they really don’t break away from us. We just had missed layup after missed layup; some contested, some not. It’s unfortunate because if we do that, the whole game is changed.
"But credit to Cedar Crest. They knocked down shots and played hard. Congratulations to coach Smith - it’s a great accomplishment and he’s built a strong foundation.”