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See the top five plays from Tuesday as Hempfield downed Cedar Crest 59-41. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com

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Last season’s tough ending is still all too familiar.

A first-round exit from the district playoffs has been a bad taste for the Cedar Crest boys basketball team since that game’s final buzzer.

Now at the most critical part of this season, the Falcons are back in position to avenge their recent history.

It had been going well, in winning four of their last five, but the Falcons have hit another bump in the road after a rough 59-41 loss to Hempfield on Tuesday at home.

The loss drops Cedar Crest (13-6, 7-5) into a tie for third place in Section One with Manheim Township (11-8, 7-5) with three games left, as the Blue Streaks took care of business against Penn Manor on Tuesday.

Hempfield (13-6, 8-4) meanwhile, moves a game ahead of the Falcons and Blue Streaks in second place, and also swept the season series from Cedar Crest.

This game certainly goes as one of the few uncharacteristic performances for the Falcons, having an inconsistent night offensively, including just a six-point first quarter.

Their leading scorer, which was Blake Thomson, had just nine points.

“It was a tough game,” Cedar Crest coach Tom Smith said. “Calls didn’t go our way and we just didn’t respond very well. We didn’t play our best game when we needed to.”

What also didn’t help Cedar Crest was trying to match up against Hempfield’s defense, forcing the Falcons to be in a style of play they’re not used to.

“They play us in a very unique way. It’s all man-to-man,” Smith said. “Our primary offense is predicated on drawing help and kicking, making two play one, and we don’t get that against them. We went to our secondary offense and had some success, but we didn’t make a lot of shots. But the biggest thing was when they’re playing at their tempo, they’re very good. That played a factor.”

The Falcons expect so much of themselves, and know they can perform well in big games, but sometimes in games like these, they tend to press a bit – especially knowing how last season ended.

Smith says that could’ve been part of the problem as well.

“Maybe, I don’t know what the answer was on offense,” Smith said. “I thought we got some shots; we didn’t make them. I think once we went to our secondary offense we started getting good looks, just again didn’t make them.”

Now as the Falcons find themselves in a battle for the third and final Lancaster-Lebanon League Tournament spot, Smith is hopeful his team still remembers last year’s tough ending as motivation to keep grinding. Ultimately, it has to show on the floor.

“I hope so. I don’t know,” Smith said. “I thought we were going to be ready to play … not saying we weren’t ready to play, but the first three minutes of the game kind of dictated what was going to happen the rest of the way. We never quite recovered from the deficit we got in, and playing from behind against these guys is very difficult.”

But overall, there’s no time to panic for the Falcons, and Smith says everyone just needs to maintain their focus.

“We still have a lot of season left,” he said. “We’ve got to come to practice and get better. We still control our playoff hopes, but obviously the margin of error is zero.”

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