Evan Horn isn’t fond of the word “rebuilding.”
His preference when describing this year’s Cedar Crest boys basketball team is “reloading.”
But if the star senior’s team is to maintain its perch atop the Lancaster-Lebanon League and as a District 3-AAAA power, that new arsenal needs to prove itself.
Monday night could have been a breakthrough for Tom Smith’s Falcons, who rallied from a pair of double-digit deficits to edge Section 1 foe Hempfield 58-53 at The Cage in Lebanon.
While Horn (21 points, 10 rebounds) was again a dominant force, it was reserve underclassmen Blake Thomson and Tate Seyfert delivering in key moments down the stretch.
“Huge grow-up game,” Smith said. “We've been riding Evan hard, and we've been waiting for somebody to step up and make some plays. And those kids did. I wanted to sub in the fourth quarter, but we had things going and I couldn't do it. Blake Thomson and Taten Seyfert definitely grew up. Big time.”
The Falcons (5-2, 4-1 L-L), who snapped a two-game skid, trailed Danny Walck’s Black Knights (5-2, 3-2 L-L) by 10 points late in the first half (33-23) and again early in the third (40-30).
The hosts were getting crushed on the glass (17-8 in the first half), and Hempfield’s balance – nine different players scored in the opening half – was giving the Falcons fits.
Not surprisingly, rebounding fueled Crest’s comeback. With double-doubles from both Horn and 6-5 senior Raymie Ferreira (10 points, 10 rebounds), the Falcons did not allow a single offensive board in the entire second half.
Overall, the rebounding edge was 22-11 after the break, and the Falcons’ defense yielded just one field goal over the game’s final nine minutes.
“Raymie and I are the only ones with any real varsity experience,” Horn said. “It's gonna take a couple games to get going. Unfortunately we lost two of those, but we'll get back in the groove and get to playing together and win games.”
Two free throws by Seyfert, a first-year junior, tied the score at 47-47 with 5:37 left, and another free throw by the sophomore Thomson with 4:20 remaining gave the Falcons their first lead since the first quarter.
“Like Coach Smith always says, it's always somebody else's different night,” said Thomson, who matched a career-high with 11 points, while Seyfert scored a career-high nine. “Tonight me and Taten stepped up to the plate. To beat Hempfield, you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Missed free throws – the Falcons were just 10-for-20 in the fourth quarter – kept the Black Knights alive, and Javon Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 24 seconds left sliced Hempfield’s deficit to 55-53.
Thomson drew a foul after the in-bounds. He made the first and missed the second, but he grabbed his own offensive rebound and scored on a put-back to make it a five-point final.
“This was huge,” Smith said. “Our kids were feeling the pressure a little bit. So to get this one I think was a huge monkey off our back. They were maybe starting to question themselves, so this is definitely one we need to build on and continue to progress.”
Connor Moffatt (foot) returned from a two-week absence and scored 12 points off the bench for Hempfield, adding nine rebounds. Mitchell also scored 12 for the Knights, with 10 more from Bryan Karl.
“I think our rebounding on missed foul shots (was costly),” Walck said. “We've got to clean that up. We'll do that. We had opportunities. We've got some young guys out there, and the more we get in this, the better we're going to be. It's early, and that's what we can't lose focus on. Next week we'll be better, and in January we'll be better, and in February we'll be much better.”
Follow Geoff Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
Cedar Crest 58, Hempfield 53
Andrew Green 2 0-0 5, Ryan Moffatt 1 4-6 6, Tyler Hilton 1 0-0 3, Connor Moffatt 4 4-7 12, Will Blair 1 0-0 2, David Martin 0 1-2 1, Joey White 1 0-0 2, Bryan Karl 4 1-2 10, Javon Mitchell 4 2-2 12. Totals — 18 12-19 53.
Cedar Crest (56)
Kobe Bolanos 0 1-2 1, Blake Thomson 4 2-6 11, Luis Minaya 0 0-0 0, Iziah Trimble 3 0-0 6, Dylan Miller 0 0-0 0, Taten Seyfert 2 4-4 9, Cole Laney 0 0-0 0, Raymie Ferreira 4 2-4 10, Evan Horn 6 7-15 21. Totals — 19 16-31 58.
Hempfield _ 17 _ 16 _ 13 _ 7 _ — _ 53
Cedar Crest _ 16 _ 12 _ 14 _ 16 _ — _ 58
3-point goals — Hemp 5 (Mitchell 2, Green, Hilton, Karl); CC 4 (Horn 2, Thomson, Seyfert).
JV score — Cedar Crest 38, Hempfield 36.