Check out the top 5 plays from the Cedars' 53-48 win Tuesday. Matt Catrillo
It’s been almost a picture-perfect season for the Lebanon boys basketball team.
The Cedars are Section One champs, their coach earned his 100th career win, they nearly went unbeaten in the section, and finally beat their cross-town rival for the first time in seven years in January.
The only thing that would put a cherry on top for the regular season was playing a part in knocking out Cedar Crest from league playoff contention.
If that unfamiliar territory put a little extra spark in Lebanon, it was very much needed. The Cedars survived an all-out war to indeed knock the Falcons out from qualifying for the L-L tourney with a 53-48 win in Tuesday’s season finale at Lebanon High School.
Cedar Crest (15-7, 8-6) was eliminated with its loss and Manheim Township’s 79-60 thumping of Warwick.
The Falcons, however, still qualify for the District 3 Tournament, which begins Feb. 21 for Class 6A.
For the Cedars (18-4, 13-1), it couldn’t have been a better way to sail into the postseason.
“That’s what we wanted,” said Lebanon senior Shaq Ortiz, who led the Cedars with 17 points. “Knocking them (the Falcons) out of the playoffs is probably the best thing for us all year. Now we can just focus on going to win a championship.”
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said. “You really couldn’t put much more into this game. It means a lot to our kids moving forward. It was a good win. It was a battle, that’s for sure.”
Even though the result is still one of the sweetest ones of the year for the Cedars, Speraw says his team was also focused on maintaining its momentum into the postseason.
He said, “I think it was more that we wanted to stay where we were at for districts and finish the regular season on a good note.”
Lebanon was far from perfect, however, after a tough night of shooting from beyond the arc, as well as committing 18 turnovers.
“I hope we can build on it. We didn’t play very well,” Speraw said. “We didn’t hit a three, which I think that might have happened the second or third game of the year when we lost to Crest or (Governor) Mifflin. But to not hit a three and to have a physical game like that and come out on top … we’ll take it and move forward. At the same time, we've got to get better.”
Part of surviving as physical a game as anyone will see is clamping down defensively, which is something Ortiz says will continue to also be a big emphasis moving forward.
“We just need to keep staying strong on the defensive side,” Ortiz said. “I think on offense, anyone can step up on any night. Defense is what we’re focused on.”
Cedar Crest now awaits the start of districts, currently sixth in the power rankings, looking to pick up the pieces from a tough ending to the regular season.
Falcons coach Tom Smith says if any team will find way to move on from a tough loss physically and mentally, it’s his team, which has proven to be battle tested.
“It’s a tough one to take,” Smith said. “We played well enough to win, but unfortunately the refs played a big part in the game. Our kids are resilient, and we’ve bounced back before. There’s no saying that we’re not going to do it again. My guess is that we do.”
Lebanon hosts the the L-L boys tourney play-in game winner between Columbia and Ephrata Monday, Feb. 13.