Plymouth-Whitemarsh ends Lebanon's season again
FORT WASHINGTON – After learning who’d they face in the first round of the state playoffs, the Lebanon boys basketball team wanted nothing more than to avenge last year's ugly ending - a 40-point loss to Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
With that incredibly bitter feeling still firmly in mind, the Cedars gave everything they had, but the District 1 third-place winner Colonials were still too much for the Cedars, resulting in their second straight season-ending loss to P-W, 80-64, in the PIAA Class 6A First Round Saturday at Upper Dublin High School.
“I’m proud of my kids,” said Lebanon coach Tim Speraw. “We competed for 32 minutes. Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but Plymouth-Whitemarsh is a good team. They got a little bit of everything. I thought we had success in some things we did, but we had too many turnovers in the second half and gave up too many easy baskets. You can’t do that in this stage of the season.”
Senior Shaq Ortiz led all scorers with 23 points in his final game in a Cedars’ uniform, wanting to make sure he left it all on the floor no matter the outcome.
“I just wanted to do what my teammates wanted to do, and that was to go out and win,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t want it to be my last game. I tried my best…we all tried our best…we really wanted to come out better than last year, even though we weren’t at full strength then. We came out stronger, and it was a close game in the second quarter.”
Thanks to the win, the Colonials will face Pocono Mountain West, a 71-57 winner over Lower Merion Saturday, in Wednesday’s second round.
It wasn’t a clean start for Lebanon, putting itself in an early 7-0 hole, before climbing back to within 9-6 with 4:57 left in the first quarter on a 6-2 run.
The Cedars continued to make life difficult for themselves after three turnovers helped the Colonials to a 13-2 run to lead by 14, at 22-8.
Lebanon fought back again with a 7-0 run to end the quarter, then pulled to within 25-23 with 4:30 left in the half, starting the second with an 8-3 run.
Once P-W pushed its lead back to 10 with under a minute left in the half on another big 11-3 run, Luis Aquino-Rios, who finished with 20 points, fought for a huge hoop and harm to make it 36-29 Colonials at the break.
But that seven point mark is as close as Lebanon would get in the second half, as P-W began pulling away in the fourth, starting with a 7-0 run, and would extend its lead to 20.
What makes the way the game unfolded even more frustrating for the Cedars is knowing they helped jumpstart some of those big Colonial runs with untimely self-inflicted wounds.
Speraw said, “We’d use up a lot of energy to get ourselves back into the game, and then we’d have a couple mistakes that you’re going to have, especially against a team that traps and presses as much as they do. We just had too many.”
With the end of another season comes another time to say goodbye to the next graduating senior class, this year consisting of seven.
As anyone would expect, emotions ran high as the game came to an end.
“It’s hard,” Speraw said. “It’s not like we only spent the last four months together…we’ve spent the last three or four years together. We’re in the offseason a couple days a week, going away to camps, I see the guys in school, so it’s emotional when you know that it’s over and see the seniors take their jerseys off the last time. At the end of the day, they’re kids. When something means a lot, then you show emotion with it. It meant a lot to them.”
One fond memory Ortiz will remember was- you guessed it – the pregame warm-up – in his own, unique way that may not have always been the way his coaches would’ve liked him to prepare for each game.
“Just hanging out before the games, and being ‘loose’ as coach said,” Ortiz said. “He said we never really focused, we were always loose. But it worked, so we stuck with it.”