There is no official Lebanon County boys' basketball championship, but heading into the finale of the Eighth Annual Rhoades Foundation Classic at Lebanon Valley College, it seemed that Palmyra versus Lebanon deserved that billing.
The Cougars entered the game on a nine-game win streak, and the Cedars entered on a seven-game run, setting themselves up as potential contenders in District 3 Class 5A and 6A, respectively.
But the game itself also proved to be worthy of the fictional county title and made both squads appear to have postseason potential, as Palmyra defeated Lebanon 75-73 in overtime.
Palmyra (12-1), now with a 10-game winning streak, took the lead for good on a 3-point play by Braden Vernet with 26 seconds left in the overtime session.
“We have a great team chemistry,” Palmyra head coach Pete Conrad said of his team's unbeaten streak. “We also present mismatches. We're so long, so we can be disruptive on both ends of the floor.”
In past years, Palmyra played Annville-Cleona in the Rhoades Classic, but Conrad said that the schools decided that it would be more beneficial to have each team have different matchups. So he contacted Speraw to see if Lebanon would be willing to make a good matchup.
"We thought we'd get more out of this game,” Conrad said. “That's going to make both teams better from playing that game.”
It turned out that way, though it was not obvious in the first half. The Cougars scored the first 14 points of the second period to take a 32-16 lead. That coincided with a 6:31 Lebanon (8-3) scoring drought.
“We just weren't hitting shots,” Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw said, “and I think their length got to us a little.”
The lead was 37-22 at halftime, and Palmyra was still up 50-37 in the last two minutes of the third quarter. But Lebanon pushed their way back into it with an 11-3 run at the end of the period, punctuated with a 3-point shot by Camryn Shaak, to get within 53-48.
“We don't believe in moral victories at all, but this is a game that will make us better,” Speraw said.
Palmyra tried to hold off the Cedar's surge, and went up 68-63 with 1:41 to go with Vernet making two free throws. But Lebanon scored the last five points, with a Luis Aquino-Rios layup and Camryn Shaak 3-pointer.
“We were trying to make difficult plays, and I think we did a better job of making easy plays in the overtime,” Conrad said.
The Cedars had the ball on the last possession of regulation, but Shaak missed a jumper. However, to begin overtime, Rios made a 3-pointer to give Lebanon its first lead since the middle of the first quarter, 71-68.
Bryan Willis tied the game back up by making three free throws with 2:19 left, after drawing the fifth foul from Lebanon's Shaquell Ortiz.
Ortiz was Lebanon's the game's leading scorer with 24 points, but even without him, Lebanon went ahead again, 73-71, on Rios' layup with 56 seconds left.
Vernet led Palmyra with 23 points. Willis had 17 and Isaac Blaat scored 15.
Rios scored 16 and Shaak had 14 for Lebanon.
Annville-Cleona 60, Mahanoy 55
In the opener of the Rhoades Classic tripleheader, A-C bounced back from Friday night's loss to Lancaster Mennonite, improving to 8-3 in the process.
A big 26-point effort from Cameron Hoch lifted A-C to the win, as did 15 points from Dashaun Archer.
The Little Dutchmen trailed by five entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Mahanoy 20-10 in the final period en route to the win.
Cedar Crest 80, Lower Dauphin 58
In the second game at LVC, the Falcons used a 24-point third quarter and 12 3-point field goals as the catalyst for the lopsided win over LD.
Cole Laney led the way with 22 points and 5 3-pointers, and Blake Thomson added a trio of 3s and 15 points to the win.
Tate Seyfert chipped in with 12 points for Cedar Crest, which led 37-30 at the half before breaking the game open in the third.