The Mules led for the final 30:08 of a road upset that kept the Cedars from a Section Two title
There is something to be said for delayed gratification.
But Monday night at Lebanon High School was neither the time nor the place.
Unable to topple visiting Solanco in a rescheduled tip-off, the Lebanon boys basketball team failed to claim the Section Two crown with a 48-45 home defeat. The Cedars (14-6, 11-4 Lancaster-Lebanon) must now win Tuesday at Garden Spot or hope second-place Conestoga Valley falls at Elizabethtown in order to earn their second section title since 2013. Should neither transpire, Lebanon will meet the Buckskins in a neutral-site contest later this week to determine a champion.
Accomplishing what Conestoga Valley could not twice this year, the Golden Mules (10-11, 6-9) solved the Cedars by taking an early lead that never dipped below a tie over the game's final 30 minutes. Luis Alvarez led all scorers with 15 points, as one of two double-figure finishers on the Solanco bench, including Dylan Hastings (11 points). Lebanon senior Allan Escoto compiled a team-best 14.
Yet Escoto's total, as well as his team's, could have been much higher had it not been for a simple problem that dogged the Cedars most of the night.
"We missed 15-plus layups and missed a lot of threes on looks I'll take every day," Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said. "But I'm more disappointed in the missed layups. You just can't have as many as we did."
Up one after a key charge call against the Cedars with 0:27 left, Alvarez took the brunt of a quick foul and missed the front end of an ensuing 1-and-1. His misfire then fell to Lebanon, which called timeout and set up a Logan Blouch three in the left corner that clanged off the rim and straight into Hastings' hands with 7.4 ticks remaining. The Golden Mules' 6-foot-8 center calmly responded by drilling a pair of free throws, which later gave way to another Blouch miss from the right wing at the buzzer.
Such composure, as well as timely playmaking and a developed understanding, made the difference Monday, per Solanco coach Scott Long.
"We just had guys step up and make some big plays," Long said. "Desmond (Kreider) hit a big three and took a big charge there. And I think we're understanding now that it's a possessions game and it's a game of runs. Early in the season, them going on an 7-0 run would've crumbled us. But now we understand when they hit us, that it's time to hit back."
The Cedars' run hit at the outset of the second half, when they nearly climbed straight out of a 28-19 deficit. Having been handed extra possessions by their own defensive pressure, Escoto and Lebanon senior Justin Baker quickly combined for three straight layups to draw within a basket. When the Mules struck back, Baker found Felix Kortright (eight points) on the block with a beautiful feed that cut their deficit again to two.
However the margin remained until an Escoto coast-to-coast finish birthed a 44-44 tie at 5:09 to play. From there, Solanco's Colin Kilgore knocked down the eventual game-winning jumper, the last blow the Mules would land offensively until Hastings' final free throws.
Solanco's early hits connected mostly thanks to its 3-2 zone, which kept Lebanon out of sorts and grew the visitors' first-half lead to as many as a dozen. The tactic had been a changeup from their first meeting, an 18-point Cedars victory on Dec. 23.
"We actually play mostly man-to-man defense, but we just felt like we couldn't guard them. We felt like going with zone was our best shot and we felt like if they beat us taking contested threes, then they beat us," Long said. "And they almost did."
Solanco 48, Lebanon 45
Desmond Kreider 2 0-0 5, Troy Miller 1 0-0 2, Colin Kilgore 1 0-0 2, Aaron Constein 2 0-0 5, Luis Alvarez 5 5-10 15, Dylan Hastings 3 4-4 11. Totals — 18 9-14 48.
Danny Caricabeur 1 0-0 3, Justin Baker 2 1-1 5, Shaq Ortiz 2 2-2 6, Allan Escoto 6 2-3 14, Logan Blouch 1 0-0 3, Dante Vargas 1 0-0 3, Matty Lopez 1 0-0 3, Felix Kortright 3 2-3 8. Totals — 17 7-9 45.
Solanco_ 15_ 13_ 12_ 8 _ — _ 48
Lebanon_ 7_ 12_ 16_ 10 — _ 45
3-point goals — Sol 3 (Constein, Kreider, Hastings), Leb 4 (Blouch, Caricabeur, Lopez, Vargas)