Lebanon keeps expectations high
"Tradition never graduates" has become the go-to mantra of many a perennially successful athletic program in recent years.
Within the Lebanon High boys' basketball program, they don't necessarily verbalize that slogan, but they don't really have to. It's so deeply ingrained in the Cedars that it almost goes without saying.
Lebanon wants to win section titles. It wants to play for league championships. And it wants to be a player in the district and state tournaments. It doesn't always happen that way, like last year when Lebanon went 13-11 and did not win a postseason game, but it's what is expected. Every year, no excuses.
"Our expectations really never change," said head coach and Lebanon hoops alum Tim Speraw. "We expect to win the section, we expect to make a run in leagues, make a run in districts. That hasn't changed, and as long as I'm here that's not gonna change.
"I think our kids felt we should have won the section (last year), we just had a couple bad losses at the wrong time. That's something that I think is sticking with them and is on their minds heading into this season."
The group charged with keeping the standards high at Lebanon High this season figures to be a deep and versatile one led by returning starters Matty Lopez and Shaq Ortiz.
Lopez, a senior entering his third season as the starting point guard, and Ortiz, a 6-1 junior forward, front what figures to be an eight or nine-man rotation that can do a little bit of everything.
There is a potential post force in 6-3 junior Khalique Washington, a slasher in 6-2 senior Allan Escoto, perimeter types in seniors Logan Blouch and Danny Caricabeur and junior Camryn Shaak, and a promising youngster in 6-1 sophomore Felix Kortright.
"I think one of our strengths is that we'll be deep," said Speraw, who also expects senior Justin Baker to grab some minutes as well. "We could literally have a different starting lineup every night if we wanted to. We could go with a lot of different combinations. I think we're a little bit more athletic than last year, and maybe a little bit bigger."
Of course, all the ability in the world won't matter at all if there is no discipline and leadership on the floor. That's where Lopez, and also Ortiz, will be relied upon heavily to use their experience to maximum benefit.
"We definitely have to get leadership out of him, being that he is a three-year starter," Speraw said of Lopez. "And even though Shaq's only a junior he's been with us for three years, so it's kinda like he's a senior now. We have a really good group of seniors. Some of them are quiet leaders and some of them are a little bit more vocal. We just need guys to step into roles, accept roles and be accountable."
If all of that happens, the Cedars could challenge defending champ Conestoga Valley in Section Two and take some of those desired postseason trips.
"It's just gonna be a matter of finding combinations that work, and finding out who plays well with others," Speraw said. "CV has everybody back, so right now they're the team to beat. It should be pretty interesting."
With L-L realignment set for next year, Lebanon will be moving up to Section One, making this its last go-around in Section Two for a while. Of course, they'd like to go out with a bang before joining the league's big boys again.
What better way to keep the standards high?
"I think it'll be fun, moving up and playing against the bigger schools twice a year instead of just once," Speraw said. "We'll probably be the smallest school in Section One. But that's good for us. We thrive on competition and want to play better schools. We don't have a problem moving up at all."
LEBANON BOYS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Tim Speraw, 6th season
Last year: 13-11, Qualified for Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three Class AAAA playoffs
Returning starters: Matty Lopez (6-0, sr., guard), Shaq Ortiz (6-1, jr., forward)
Other top players: Khalique Washington (6-3, jr., center), Allan Escoto, (6-2, sr., forward), Danny Caricabeur (5-9, sr., guard), Logan Blouch (6-0 sr., guard), Camryn Shaak (5-11, sr., guard), Felix Kortright (6-1, so., forward), Justin Baker (6-0, sr., guard)
Season opener: Dec.4, home, vs. Lancaster Mennonite