HERSHEY - It took the Lebanon boys basketball team's finest performance of the year to pull in early Saturday morning at Giant Center for a District 3 Class AAAA tournament quarterfinal tip against Wilson.
And then it was the very best from the Bulldogs' Christian Sload and Mason McElroy sending the Cedars home.
After trailing by one at halftime, No. 11 Lebanon dropped a 55-39 decision to 14th-seeded Wilson, which received 26 second-half points from its star duo. Sload led all scorers with 19 points and captained a strong run out of intermission that put the Bulldogs ahead for good. When the Cedars later scratched to within nine, their closest margin of the fourth quarter, the Wilson senior reeled off six straight points to put them away.
"We contained (Sload), I thought, fairly decently in the first half with the zone. But once they started to creep with a lead, I knew they were just going to hold the ball outside. So we had to go man," Lebanon coach Tim Speraw said of defending the 6-foot-3 Sload. "And he's a tough matchup."
Lebanon (16-9), which secured a state tournament berth via its first-round upset of Harrisburg, will take on No. 7 Carlisle in a district consolation game Tuesday. Meanwhile, Wilson (18-8) is set to meet second-ranked Reading that same night back at Giant Center.
Just one week ago, the Bulldogs needed two overtimes to edge Governor Mifflin in a preliminary-round district game, having laced up without two starters that have yet to return due to team rule violations. McElroy was one of the bench performers consequently thrust into action, and he continued to respond with 17 points Saturday.
"I think the kids that have stepped in have really stepped up," Wilson coach Matt Coldren said. "I'm just happy for everybody."
Despite three different Bulldogs netting baskets early during the third, Lebanon stayed within a two-possession reach at 4:01 to go in the quarter, thanks to a made Shaq Ortiz free throw. However, that foul shot was the only one to fall among six the Cedars attempted during the period, thus allowing Wilson to roll to a comfortable 35-25 lead upon entering the final quarter.
McElroy then netted four straight points before two more Ortiz free throws, as the Bulldogs breezed through Lebanon's press while hounding the Cedars with their own.
"We've used it on the road a lot, so league teams wouldn't see it," Coldren said of his 3/4-court trap defense. "It's been something that's been effective for us. We've been hiding it a little bit."
Wilson's advantage continued to hover around a dozen points until Sload's personal, game-sealing run midway through the fourth.
Khalique Washington opened play by scoing six of the Cedars' first eight points, before the Bulldogs closed the first on a short 6-2 run.
An ugly second quarter next ensued, closing eventually on two Logan Blouch 3s fired out of the left wing inside the last 101 seconds. Blouch's treys were two of three Lebanon long-range connections on the day, the other belonging to recently returned sharpshooter Cam Shaak. The Cedars totaled only nine made field goals on the day.
"I don't know if it was the arena, a big stage, I'm not sure," Speraw said. "We just didn't have it today."
Wilson 55, Lebanon 39
Kyle Coldren 0 0-0 0, Isaiah Skeete 1 2-2 4, Bobby Kemp 0 0-0 0, Michael Jackson 3 0-0 7, Sean McAndrew 2 0-2 4, Mason McElroy 5 6-7 17, Christian Sload 7 5-7 19, David Awurumibe 2 0-0 4. Totals — 20 13-18 55.
Daniel Cariacabeur 0 0-0 0, Justin Baker 0 0-0 0, Shaq Ortiz 3 11-13 17, Allan Escoto 3 0-0 6, Logan Blouch 2 0-0 6, Dante Vargas 0 0-0 0, Matty Lopez 0 0-2 0, Sebastian Sierra 0 0-0 0, Cody Kissinger 0 0-0, Felix Kortright 3 0-2 6, Cam Shaak 1 1-2 4. Totals — 12 12-19 39.
Wilson_ 14_ 7_ 14_ 20 _ — _ 55
Lebanon_ 12_ 8 _ 5_ 14 — _ 39
3-point goals — Wil 2 (Jackson, McElroy), Leb 3 (Blouch 2, Shaak)