The Falcons earned their second straight trip to the district semifinals Friday night, upending York-Adams champ Red Lion, 54-45.
MILLERSVILLE - True, it was a small sample size, but the difference in focus and performance early on in Friday night's District 3 Class AAAA girls hoops quarterfinal between Cedar Crest and Red Lion could not have been more striking.
No. 3 seed Red Lion was a well-oiled machine, running its half-court offense beautifully and forcing the No.6 Falcons into a cold-shooting start. For its part, Cedar Crest looked to be a bit out of whack and far from the form it had displayed while capturing the Lancaster-Lebanon Section One title and building a 21-3 record.
Hey, sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
Aided by four game-changing 3-point buckets from reserve sophomore guard Rachel Witherite and a switch to a 2-3 zone defense, Cedar Crest emphatically shook off those early cobwebs with a 22-point second quarter that led to a 54-45 victory at Penn Manor.
Now bound for the district semis and Giant Center for a second straight season, the Falcons, who will face Governor Mifflin at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Chocolatetown, also got a huge second half from Alyssa Austin (17 points), and smooth point guard play and 14 points from Ariel Jones en route to bouncing the York-Adams champs into the consolation bracket against Lower Dauphin, which fell to Mifflin 59-42.
Just the way it figured to turn out after Red Lion charged to a 9-2 lead five minutes into the first quarter. Or not.
"9-2 wasn't a good start," Cedar Crest coach Jim Donmoyer said with a slight grimace. "But our kids stepped up. I told the kids before the game that defense was gonna win the game for us and it did, even out of a 2-3 zone. I told the kids that was the worst quarter we've played and we were still there."
Red Lion's catalyst, senior guard Courtney Dimoff, got hers, pumping in a game-high 22 points that included the Lions' first two buckets, but none of her teammates managed more than seven as Crest's decision to junk its early man-to-man defense proved to be a good one.
Meanwhile, Witherite was busy giving the Falcons three double-digit scorers by dropping in all four of her 3s in the final nine minutes of the first half to lead a 28-8 Crest charge to the break.
"She just was on fire," Donmoyer said of Witherite, who also got hot in the opening-round win over McCaskey. "She lifted us. That was the lift."
It, of course, had the opposite effect on Red Lion, now 24-3.
"We tried to pick our poison. We didn't want to leave her open because we knew she could shoot," Red Lion coach Don Dimoff said. "We were trying to help off (Austin, in the post) and unfortunately we made it too easy for them to skip the ball to (Witherite) and she knocked them down. I was disappointed we didn't do a better job of finding her."
Cedar Crest enjoyed its largest lead at 30-14 on a Jade Rolon free throw with 34 seconds left in the first half. But the lead wasn't as safe as it appeared.
Dimoff nailed a '3' just before the halftime buzzer to make it 30-17 and Red Lion got the deficit all the way down to 46-41 on an Amy Maciejewski bucket with 1:37 left.
But by pounding the ball into Austin in the second half- when she tallied 10 of her 17 points - Crest made certain further inroads would not be made and a return trip to the Giant Center would be.
"I'm just happy. I can't express how happy I am," Donmoyer said. "Giant Center again, two years in a row."
And for Red Lion, a trip back to the drawing board to regroup and try to earn a state tournament berth.
"We still have a chance to qualify for the state tournament and we still feel we're a very good team," Dimoff said. "We're gonna try to refocus. Things happen. Now we'll see what kind of team we have."
Cedar Crest 54, Red Lion 45
Cedar Crest (54)
Ariel Jones 3 8-8 14, Jade Rolon 2 1-4 6, Sky Yancey 0 0-0 0, Caitlynn Albright 1 2-6 4, Alyssa Austin 7 4-7 18, Rachel Witherite 4 0-0 12, Gracen Donmoyer 0 0-0 0, Totals — 17 15-25 54 .
Red Lion (45)
, Hannah Wolf 0 0-0 0,, Natalie Reba 2 2-2 6, Kynslee Shepherd 3 0-0 6 Amy Maciejewski 2 0-0 4, Courtney Dimoff 8 2-2 22, Taylor Funke 3 1-4 7, Kami Harvey 0 0-0 0 Totals — 18 5-8 45 .
Cedar Crest _ 8 _ 22 _ 8 _ 16 _ — _ 54
Red Lion _ 9 _ 8 _ 11 _ 17 _ — _ 45
3-point goals — CC 5 (Witherite 4, Rolon), RL 4 (Dimoff)