SOUTH LEBANON – Cedar Crest's boys basketball team has found its identity. That identity is multifaceted, but part of it is being a team that wins tight games.
On Friday night, the Falcons defeated Warwick 78-73 in overtime, just three days after edging McCaskey on the road 63-62.
In the win over the Warriors, Cedar Crest bounced back numerous times in a fourth quarter that featured 10 lead changes. Then the Falcons (11-4, 6-3 Section 1) never trailed in the overtime, in part because they were 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“We've played a lot of close games this year,” Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith said. “For the mental part of it, that we've won three overtime games, they're getting [experience] game by game. We're not a very good free throw shooting team, but down the stretch is when we're at our best.”
Often tired legs become obvious at the charity stripe with attempts coming up short. Part of the reason Cedar Crest still had gas left in the tank for the extra four minutes was another part of its new identity: this Falcon team can get quality minutes, and quality stats, from players on the bench.
The most obvious example from Friday's win was Jaydon Melendez, who came off the bench to score 13 points, including three 3-point baskets. Logan Horn also added four points for the Falcon reserves, and Jabin Joseph, Adam Loehr and Bradon Showers all saw time. That gave the starters a chance to save some strength for the crucial final minutes.
“My bench players are giving us what we need,” Smith said. “Some are playing out of position, but we aren't losing much when we go the bench. Melendez and Horn, to speak of two in particular, have been playing very well.”
At the end of regulation, though, it was the starters that took center stage. Cole Laney, who had 23 points and 19 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left to put the Falcons ahead 64-63.
Alex Lalovic responded for the Warriors (8-8, 5-4) with one of his five 3-point shots to put the road team ahead 66-64. But Laney answered with a layup to tie the game 66-66 with 10 seconds to go. Lalovic's jumper missed with a couple of ticks left on the clock and the game went to overtime.
“I told them to get back on defense, and to remember what got us here,” Smith said of the team huddle before the extra session. “We played good team basketball and made some big shots.”
The Falcons showed they were listening to their coach in the opening seconds of overtime, forcing a turnover. That led to a layup by Tate Seyfert for a 68-66 lead. After another defensive stop, Blake Thompson made another shot in close for a 70-66 advantage. Warwick never had the ball with a chance to tie again.
Thompson tied Laney for game-high honors with 23 points and Seyfert scored 10. Lalovic paced the Warriors with 22 points.