Led by 24 points from Ariel Jones, the Falcons rolled to a 70-55 win in a rematch of last season's L-L title game.
It's a little early in the season to be making statements, but the Cedar Crest girls' basketball team cleared its throat anyway and gave voice to a rather emphatic one on Friday night.
How does Cedar Crest 70, McCaskey 55 sound against your ear drums?
In a rematch of last year's Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game won by Cedar Crest, the defending champion Falcons made clear that they'll be a rather formidable defending champ to deal with, riding a brilliant 24-point performance from junior point guard Ariel Jones and a superb collective effort to a most impressive 15-point win in a battle of unbeatens in front of the home folks at the Falcon Cage.
Now 6-0 overall and 4-0 in Section One, Cedar Crest was locked in a tight, no-frills battle in the first half, leading just 25-22 at the half. But the speedy Jones helped the Falcons break the game open late in the third, leading an 8-0 spurt over the final 3:08 of the period that left no doubt which side would land the first blow in what figures to be a multi-round bout for section and league supremacy between the two powers.
"Round one, we'll take," said a pleased Cedar Crest coach Jim Donmoyer. "Two good teams, they played well, we played well. We just played a little bit better than they did tonight. I expect to see them a couple more times, but it was nice to get the first one. Nice to get a leg up, I guess."
And nice to do it the way the Falcons did it, with contributions from all over the place.
Jones and junior center Alyssa Austin, who poured 19 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and blocked or altered a season's worth of shots, were the stars of the show but they shared the stage equally and willingly with a productive supporting cast.
Playing lesser, but critically important roles, among others, were Caitlynn Albright, who dropped in six key points and defended and rebounded superbly, and reserve guards Gracen Donmoyer and Rachel Witherite, who came off the bench to drop in eight points and two 3-pointers apiece.
"My kids played well. All my kids played well," Donmoyer said proudly. "A lot of young kids stepped up, and I get my normal Ariel and Alyssa. But everyone in that locker room played well. Everyone I put in did something well. It was an awesome team effort. Awesome."
"I think it was a good team win," said Jones, who simply couldn't be guarded in the second half. "We all contributed and everybody played good. We couldn't have won it without everybody."
But it would have been much harder without Jones' brilliant play, particularly in the second half.
McCaskey (5-1, 3-1), led by Paris Todd's 24 points, was with Crest every step of the way for 2 1/2 quarters and still within 36-35 after a Jaileen Short bucket with 3:08 left in the third.
From there, Albright began the decisive 8-0 run with a driving layup and Jones finished it with a pair of buckets that sandwiched a set-up of Austin for two more points.
That made it 44-35 after three quarters, and after a Witherite '3' 24 ticks into the fourth Cedar Crest was in front by double digits to stay.
"I think we got it into the post more and that opened up the outside," said Jones, deflecting any personal responsibility for the big third quarter.
And why not? Amid the individual brilliance was a sparkling team win that should do quite a bit for the Falcons moving forward.
"They can play," Donmoyer said. "Confidence is a great thing. They're gonna grow up as the year goes on, but we're in a nice place right now."
Cedar Crest 70, McCaskey 55
Short 2 2-3 6, Weller 1 1-2 3, Parker 4 1-2 9, Perry 5 2-5 12, Reid-White 0 1-2 1, Todd 7 8-8 24., Kemmerer 0 0-0 0 Totals — 19 15-22 55
Cedar Crest (70)
Jones 8 6-9 24, Rolon 1 1-2 3, Yancey 0 0-0 0, Albright 3 0-0 6, Austin 8 2-2 19, Donmoyer 3 0-0 8, Witherite 3 0-0 8, Bartal 0 0-0 0, Morgan 1 0-0 2, Guth 0 0-0 0. Totals — 27 9-13 70
McCaskey _ 10 _ 12 _ 13 _ 20 _ — _ 55
Cedar Crest _ 11 _ 14 _ 19 _ 26 _ — _ 70
3-point goals — M: Todd 2, CC: Jones 2, Austin, Witherite 2, Donmoyer 2
JV score — Cedar Crest 24, McCaskey 20.