The Cedars ran off their eighth straight win on Wednesday night, defeating host Mechanicsburg 45-37 in the title game of the Wildcats' holiday tourney.
MECHANICSBURG – Hugging that bulky trophy, even the piece of gauze shoved up Matty Lopez’s nose couldn’t prevent a smile.
Three years the Lopez-led Lebanon Cedars traveled to Mechanicsburg High School for the Sauve Bros. Holiday Tournament, and for the first time in the point guard’s tenure, they can call themselves champs.
Wednesday night’s 45-37 victory over the host Wildcats gave Tim Speraw’s bunch the title and its eighth straight win overall, with the bloodied Lopez totaling eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals for the Cedars (9-1).
Shaq Ortiz bucketed a team-high 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots, as Lebanon erased an early 10-point deficit and led throughout the fourth quarter vs. Mechanicsburg (5-4), a gritty Mid-Penn Keystone club.
Logan Blouch, a day removed from a career-high 23 points, nailed three more triples for nine points. He also took home tournament MVP honors, with Lopez joining him on the all-tourney team.
“Awesome. Finally won it,” Lopez said. “Finally, after three years.
“It was like a playoff-intensity game. I haven't played in one like it this year. They were a good team, and they gave us the best that they can.”
Bob Strickler’s Wildcats dominated the first quarter, building a 12-2 lead with distributed scoring and terrific defense.
But Felix Kortright (six points, eight rebounds) went coast-to-coast near the end of the opening stanza to snap that 12-point run by Mechanicsburg, and that ignited a 12-0 run for the Cedars.
Tied 14-14 at halftime and 20-20 late in the third quarter, the Cedars took the lead for good on Ortiz’s put-back with 2:14 left in the frame. That started a 19-8 run that gave control to the visitors.
“They're a physical team, one of the most physical we've played all year,” Speraw said. “And we knew it was going to be like that. I'm sure they wanted to keep it in the 40s. We wanted to get it a little higher. If you would have told me we would have scored 45 and won, I'd be surprised.”
Likewise, Strickler said his team achieved its goal of slowing Lebanon’s potentially explosive offense. But the Cedars’ defense, he said, proved to be tougher than expected.
“I was impressed by them, because I know they can score it,” Strickler said. “They didn't have a good offensive night, and I would like to think that some of that was our defense. But I really felt like if we could guard them, that we'd beat them. Because I didn't think they were tough enough defensively from what I had seen, and they showed guts tonight. They showed that they deserve to be 9-1. That's a good, quality basketball team.”
The physicality led to some bumps and bruises, as well as some on-court chatter.
But that’s where Lopez shined, powering through the high intensity and delivering key buckets, assists, steals or rebounds when Lebanon needed it most.
Once the Cedars built a double-digit lead, the closest Mechanicsburg would get was seven points. Lebanon didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line (eight of 17), but the 35-25 rebounding edge and a strong-shooting second half (11 for 18) countered those struggles.
“We just were playing their game that they wanted us to play,” Lopez said of the rough start. “We weren't playing our game, and we just had to turn it around. And that's what we did.”
Lebanon guard Justin Baker provided some big plays, contributing nine points and five rebounds. He scored five of his points in the fourth quarter.
Kyle Scheib paced the Wildcats with 13 points and three assists. Cade Alioth added six points and eight rebounds.
Cedars guard Cam Shaak, who bruised his knee in Tuesday’s victory over Boiling Springs, did not play and is considered day-to-day, Speraw said.
Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
Lebanon 45, Mechanicsburg 37
Daniel Caricabeur 0 0-0 0, Justin Baker 3 3-5 9, Shaq Ortiz 5 3-5 13, Allan Escoto 0 0-0 0, Logan Blouch 3 0-0 9, Dante Vargas 0 0-0 0, Matty Lopez 3 2-7 8, Felix Kortright 3 0-0 6. Totals — .17 8-17 45
Shane Homick 2 0-0 5, Nathan Vrabel 1 2-2 5, Kyle Scheib 4 3-7 13, Nathan Mayernick 0 0-0 0, Cade Alioth 2 2-4 6, David Kovalchik 2 0-0 6, Doug Edgar 1 0-0 2.. Totals — .12 7-13 37
Lebanon _ 4 _ 10 _ 10 _ 21 _ — _ 45
Mechanicsburg_ 12 _ 2 _ 7 _ 16 _ — _ 37
3-point goals — L: L 3 (Blouch 3); M 6 (Scheib 2, Kovalchik 2, Homick, Vrabel)..