Coming into this season, the Cedar Crest boys basketball team had the goal of taking the bad taste of last year’s tough postseason ending out of its mouth.
After responding to the challenge with a fast 2-0 start, the Falcons were handed their first loss in Monday’s home opener by Manheim Central.
So coming into Friday’s rematch of last year’s Lancaster-Lebanon League Final with McCaskey, Cedar Crest not only wants to avoid falling to .500, but also earn some sweet revenge against a league rival who denied it a three-peat of a league title.
“We definitely have hard feelings from last year,” said Cedar Crest’s Blake Thomson. “It’s tough knowing we got swept…30 points in the first game, 20 points in the second game, and then the league championship. We definitely want it Friday.”
And as it’s been discussed often with this team, size has been an Achilles' heel, playing a part in Monday’s loss. But it was an even bigger issue against the Red Tornado in the L-L final in particular, as second-chance points made the difference in McCaskey’s seven-point win last February.
But Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith says it simply comes down to effort, which is something he thought was lacking a little bit in Monday’s loss to the Barons.
He said, “As I reviewed the film again, they didn’t do anything special. They just outworked us. So we need to make sure we show up tomorrow with confidence. Anytime you beat McCaskey, you’re beating a good basketball team. So anytime you get a chance to play them, you bring your A-game.”
And the players do agree rebounding comes down to effort, but doing so using one of their strengths.
“Although we lack in size, we have more speed,” Cedar Crest’s Dylan Miller said. “We just have to want it more, honestly. We have to hit the boards and get more box outs. We have also to win those 50-50 balls. They’re going to be key to a win.”
The Falcons also will have to worry about slowing down the Red Tornado’s Ricky Cruz, who torched Cedar Crest in all three meetings last year, scoring 60 points combined in the team’s pair of regular season meetings, followed by a 16-point effort in the league championship game, 10 of those in the second half.
And Cedar Crest will have to match McCaskey offensively overall as well, if it is to regain the rhythm from its 2-0 start.
But when facing a team like the Red Tornado, it may come down to a key possession or even a last-second shot – something that went through the hands of Evan Horn previously.
Currently, the Falcons are still looking for that next go-to guy to emerge, but Smith still thinks it can be used as an advantage in the meantime.
“While we’re still trying to figure things out, it still makes it difficult to prepare for us because we don’t necessarily have that one go-to guy,” Smith said. “You can take any of our guys out of the game and someone will step up. That’s the nice thing we have this year. I think collectively we just need to grow up a little bit and start to do the things Evan did. The first weekend I thought we did a lot of that. Monday night we didn’t do as much.”
Miller became the newest player to audition as “the guy,” stepping up with back-to-back jumpers Monday to bring the Falcons back within seven after trailing 20-8 in the second quarter.
“I think I can continue to do that. But we’re all capable of making shots when it comes down to it,” Miller said. “I think we are starting to find it. There’s times in the game when its rough, but we’re doing alright. We’ll get there.”
Tip-off at Cedar Crest Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.