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Lebanon boys maintain perch on top of Section 1

Luis Aquino-Rios has quietly led his Lebanon team to an impressive start to the season, yet according to coach Tim Speraw, the junior has been overshadowed just about every night by one of his teammates who score more points than the quick and hard-working junior.

Turns out Tuesday night was no different.

Khalique Washington led the way on the scoreboard with 14 points as the Cedars defeated the Hempfield Black Knights 65-51 to move to 9-3 overall and 6-0 atop Section 1. Aquino-Rios tacked on 13 and Camryn Shaak also hit double-digits with 10.

But Washington may have stolen the show on the defensive end as the senior center took not one, but two charges. Or perhaps it was Shaak dribbling through the full-court press Hempfield deployed in the fourth quarter several times and scoring on a layup or earning an assist on a teammate’s layup.

Or it could have been the fact that it was Cancer Night. However it went down, it was a win for the Cedars, and Speraw will take it.

“It’s a big win. In our section there’s no easy game and you know Hempfield is going to bring it every night,” Speraw. “It was a shame that the Carl kid couldn’t play tonight, but we play whoever suits up.”

And while Aquino-Rios may have taken a back seat to Washington, Speraw was happy with his team’s performance right from the opening tip. While dominant may not be the correct term, the Cedars got the game’s opening points from Aquino-Rios and trailed only once, briefly, after Hempfield’s David Martin-Robinson scored back-to-back jumpers.

Lebanon responded, however, with a 10-0 run to close the first quarter and never trailed the Black Knights the rest of the way.

And although only one team could win on the court, the players and coaches from both teams were hopeful that their efforts off the court would in some way have a positive influence on those battling cancer.

In a pregame announcement, it was noted that eight years ago, former Lebanon girls basketball coach Carlos Sanchez and his counterpart at Manheim Township, Lance Wagner, launched Cancer Night. Both coaches knew first-hand the impact cancer had on family members.

Eight years later, both Sanchez and Wagner have moved on from their posts, but Cancer Night has not only continued, it has grown thanks to efforts of many, including Ben Brewer and Sean Burkhart.

“It’s a great cause,” Speraw said. “Just being associated with it, and Carlos being someone I coached with, that makes it even more special.”

It was noted that 32 programs in the Lancaster-Lebanon League now have Cancer Awareness Nights and that the 22 participating schools have sold over 1,100 of the white T-shirts. The fundraiser will break the $35,000 mark in donations to the American Cancer Society and other such groups. Sanchez, who was in attendance, said after the game that when it started, he never envisioned that number.

Lebanon will celebrate the dual success of the evening until midnight when Speraw noted they will start focusing on their next game, which will be right down the road at Cedar Crest on Friday night in another key Section 1 game.