LANCASTER – They know it’s going to be a dogfight to earn a coveted spot in the Lancaster-Lebanon League Tournament.
This is especially true when Cedar Crest and McCaskey get together, with both teams part of a four-way tie for second place in Section One.
And as was the case the last time these two teams met – when Cole Laney hit a game-tying three in the waning seconds of regulation, which the Falcons eventually won in overtime – a Dylan Miller putback with 26.7 seconds left in regulation gave Cedar Crest a 63-62 win at McCaskey on Tuesday.
Miller said, “I saw Blake (Thomson) take a good shot, I saw an open lane, and I just went in for the rebound and got it back up. It was a big rebounding battle. We really had to box out against them.”
Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith said, “One thing we talk about is when a team plays a zone, it’s tough for them to check out because they don’t have one man assigned to him. Our kids just wanted it more.”
The Falcons were able to hang on after Miller’s basket – the Red Tornado’s Isaih Speller missed a shot at the buzzer.
In this heated race for the top three playoff spots in the section, the Falcons (10-4, 5-3) know they now have one thing in their hands – a sweep of the Red Tornado (5-8, 4-4), who've now lost three straight.
“It’s now something in our favor, which is a good thing,” Smith said. “We have a long way to go, though, which is my message to the team. We've got six section games left, and the greatest separation between us and the rest of them is very little, so we need to make sure we’re taking practice one at a time, as well as each game.”
In a blowout loss at home to Lebanon on Friday, Cedar Crest knew it didn’t play like itself.
The only way to fix it was get back in the gym, learn from it and move on, with yet another game with high stakes against another section rival.
“It was a tough bounce-back game after taking that one on the chin,” Smith said. “Having to come down here to McCaskey wasn’t what I was looking for on the schedule. But the kids rallied, and we made enough plays down the stretch to win. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win, especially when you come to McCaskey. It’s a tough place to play. This is a good win for us.”
Miller said, “Taking one against Lebanon was rough since we hadn’t lost to them in a long time. It made us focus. We knew we had to come back after that tough loss.”
One improvement seen by Smith from his team was much better ball movement, especially against a zone defense, which has been an Achilles heel all season.
Smith said, “It was one of our better games against it. We’re going to see it a lot more, so we just have to keep working on it. We’ll watch the film and see what we did good and bad and continue working on it in practice. We don’t want this to be our weakness anymore. It might be a little, but there’s progress.”
Moving forward, the Falcons know there’s going to be lots of outside noise as the playoff races continue heating up, with all the talk about standings, power rankings and scenarios.
Miller says it’s important for his team to maintain their rejuvenated focus.
“We just have to keep it game by game,” he said. “We were looking to the next game too much and it punched us in the face. We have Warwick next and last time we blew one there. Now they’re coming to our house and I think we got them. We’ll be focused.”