Lebanon ends 7-year losing skid to Cedar Crest
Highlights from the Cedars 60-41 win Friday, its first over the Falcons in 7 years. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
It’s already been an impressive run for the Lebanon boys basketball team.
The Cedars had won eight of their last nine games, and sat atop Section One with an unblemished section record.
But they still had one more obstacle to overcome to put a bow on this run – to finally beat Cedar Crest. It’s been seven long years, since December 2010, to be exact.
Lebanon decided enough was enough, rolling to a 60-41 win over its cross-town rival, breaking the long and dreaded losing streak.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Luis Aquino-Rios, who led the Cedars with a game-high 17 points. “It’s crazy … we were talking about this since we started getting on a roll. When the time finally came, we just played together. Now it feels amazing.”
For Lebanon coach Tim Speraw, the thrill of a long-awaited victory like this reminded him of a fond memory of his beloved San Francisco 49ers.
“It reminds me of Steve Young getting the Joe Montana monkey off his back,” Speraw said. “It just seems like it’s been hanging around and hanging around, and we just hadn’t been able to beat them. It feels good. I couldn’t be happier for the kids, just getting that weight off their shoulders, and getting confidence moving forward into the second half of the season.”
But this wasn’t the first time Speraw had the confidence his team could finally take the monkey – or maybe in this case, the bird – off their back.
“I feel that way every year,” Speraw said. “I feel like anytime we put a team on the court, I feel like we can win. I don’t know if I felt any different this year than other years. But we mentally came to play. We made our mistakes, but we were focused and ready.”
To throw even more fuel to the motivational fire for Lebanon (10-3, 7-0), maintaining its lead in a very competitive section was also vital.
“I can’t even explain it. We came out there ready,” Aquino-Rios said. “We were talking about it since the beginning of the week after the Hempfield win. We talked about how much it meant to us, not only because it was Cedar Crest, but because we were leading the section and we needed to make a statement.”
It didn’t take the Cedars long to take control, jumping out to an 11-3 lead with 5:05 left in the first quarter, taking advantage of five Cedar Crest turnovers on its first seven possessions. The Falcons committed 13 turnovers in the first half, 20 for the game.
Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith said, “I guess I was a little bit surprised. In a big game like this though, with a young team, you tend to have shaky starts, but we settled down.”
The Falcons, who trailed by as many as 21, were able to cut the deficit to 10 with 3:52 left in the third, but that’s as close as they got.
Smith said, “It was important for their (Lebanon’s) game plan. Then they could sit back in their zone. When you get a big lead like that, they dictate the rest of the game. We didn’t make enough shots to challenge it.”
Now with arguably the best win of the season to go with a commanding three-game lead in Section One over Cedar Crest (9-4, 4-3), Hempfield (8-5, 4-3), Warwick (7-7, 4-3), and McCaskey (5-6, 4-3), Lebanon still knows it has some work to do – but it’s still plenty confident as being the team to beat in the section.
“I think so,” Speraw said. “Anytime you beat someone in our section, it means something. That fact that we finished the first half of the season without any losses … I didn’t expect that, but I’m obviously happy about it. At the same time, we haven’t won anything yet, so we’re not satisfied.”