Cedar Crest girls suffer first defeat in Dist. 3 semifinal
HERSHEY — If it is true that all good things come to an end, then there are plenty of good things still to come for the Cedar Crest girls basketball team.
Because despite a loss Tuesday evening to the Central Dauphin Rams in the District 3 Class 6A semifinals — the Rams snapped the Falcons’ 26-game winning streak with a back-and-forth 42-38 victory — the end is still a distant one for a Falcons squad of talented players that has plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.
And business to attend to in Thursday night’s District 3 third-place game. Not to mention all the bus trips, team activities and elevator rides that go along with a sojourn into the PIAA State Tournament.
Wait, elevator rides?
Hidden in the bowels of the cavernous Giant Center, where a sea of cheerleading squads and sports teams move in and out of a maze of locker rooms, is an elevator that leads back to the fresh air outside.
Following Tuesday’s loss, most of the Falcons’ players waited first for the doors of that elevator to open, and then, once inside the elevator, for their teammates Ariel Jones and Alyssa Austin to come up the hallway.
Crammed inside, the Falcons began their journey upward. Because if there is anything that coach Jim Donmoyer could take away from the loss to the Rams, it was that there is only one way to go following his team’s first loss of the season.
“My message to the girls was to keep their heads up,” Donmoyer said. “There’s no shame losing to that team. Great teams get back up off the floor. Everybody’s happy when you’re winning; when you lose a game it’s tough to take. Nobody’s happy about it, but we’ll see how good we are and how we respond Thursday.”
Thursday’s contest opposite No. 4 seed Central York (24-3) is tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m. at Manheim Township.
Key to Cedar Crest coming out on top will be a faster start than the one that greeted Central Dauphin (21-3) Tuesday. A second-quarter run like the one that propelled the Falcons to a 21-15 halftime lead — following an 11-2 deficit to end the first quarter — wouldn’t hurt, either.
The Falcons (26-1) hit five threes in the frame, including two from Rachel Witherite to spark the offense, as well as one from Austin (team-high eight points, 10 rebounds) for a 15-13 lead. Back-to-back treys from Jade Rolon and then Gracen Donmoyer at the buzzer turned a 15-all contest into Cedar Crest’s six-point halftime lead.
“We spotted them nine,” coach Donmoyer said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter to come back and lead it by six at halftime, we had a hell of a second quarter. They got three on us the third quarter. The fourth quarter we just couldn’t get over that hump.”
The deciding fourth was set up by CD’s success from the stripe; it drained 12 of 14 free throws to first get back in it, and then to preserve the lead. The Rams’ Sam Gress and Alexis Smith each finished with a game-high 13 points.
Austin answered a 10-0 Central Dauphin run with a 3-pointer to close within 37-36, then dropped a layup with 8.8 seconds left to counter a pair of free throws from Gress. But Gress sank two more freebies and a three-ball from Jones (7 points) rattled off the rim as the final horn sounded.
Donmoyer, Witherite, and Raven Morgan — who played phenomenally in the paint throughout the contest — each finished with 6 points for the Falcons. Rolon finished with five.
“They really blew me away as far as what they did up to this point so far,” Donmoyer said of his team. “I think we played hard tonight. (Central Dauphin) did, too. That one possession down two I think we missed two layups … those baskets go, it’s a tie game and we’re not trying to foul to save the clock at the end.”
Yes, the clock hit zero Tuesday with the Falcons on the losing end. But the wheels and rotors inside both clock and elevator are moving just fine as the Falcons gear up for Thursday night.