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Lebanon survives CD East, bound for district semis

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Yeah, it was robbed of a league championship this time last week.

But as Lebanon boys basketball coach Tim Speraw said postgame of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Final, “the sun’s gonna come up tomorrow.”

And really, that phrase couldn’t be more true based on the position the Cedars put themselves in, needing to win only two games to play for a district championship, thanks to a first round bye to start the district playoffs.

Having that in mind certainly helped the Cedars move on and turn it into a 51-50 win over visiting CD East in the District 3 Class 6A Quarterfinals Friday.

“I mean, they're kids,” Speraw said. “Some of them forget it by the time they walk out of the locker room, and some hang on to it for a couple of days. But we talked about it and used it as motivation.”

Now Lebanon finds itself one win away from a district final berth and is bound for Giant Center, where it will look to get past a third meeting with Hempfield, 49-46 winner over Governor Mifflin, in Tuesday’s semifinal at 6:30 p.m.

The win also clinches the Cedars a PIAA Tournament berth.

“Watching the film (from the L-L Final), I didn’t think we played hard all the time, which was very disappointing,” Speraw said. “I told the guys we’re every bit as good as CD East. I think some people might have favored them. I said if we stick to the game plan and play hard, we can play with them.”

With the loss, CD East drops to the consolation semifinals, which are also Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Milton Hershey, where it will face Mifflin with a trip to the fifth-place game and a state playoff berth on the line.

The Cedars earned the win through the charity stripe, as Khalique Washington gave Lebanon a 45-44 lead with 1:49 left, going 1-for-2.

Coming through in a critical situation while trying to block out the outside noise of a hostile crowd was something Washington said wasn’t an issue.

“I just didn’t want to come up short like I did the first two free throws,” said Washington, who finished with eight points. “Just bend my knees and follow through. Just listen to what the coaches say. We practice them every day, so it really came natural. I really couldn’t hear anybody to be honest.”

After Luis Aquino-Rios hit a pair of free throws on the ensuing Cedars possession, Shaq Ortiz appeared to have officially closed it out with a pair of his own, making it 51-47 Lebanon with 5.3 left. But a Na’Seen Thomas 3 kept things interesting at 51-50 with 1.0 left.

The Cedars then survived a last-second Panthers’ heave to secure the win.

Lebanon finished the game 13-for-20 at the free throw line.

Washington said from a players’ standpoint, knowing what still lied ahead definitely helped he and his teammates move on from a painful loss.

“It hurt us that we lost,” he said. “We just forgot about it and came out and did what we did.”

As Lebanon preps for another trip to GiantCenter, Washington said the experience from last year’s district quarterfinals loss to Wilson should lead to better results this time around.

“Hopefully we can knock down shots. Last year we weren’t able to do that,” Washington said. “You never see gyms like that for high schools. There’s open areas where it’s hard to shoot. This year I think we got it.”

And having a familiar opponent doesn’t hurt either, but that doesn’t mean the path doesn’t get any easier. Lebanon split with Hempfield during the regular season, including a 50-47 loss Feb. 3

“It makes game planning easier,” Speraw said. “We got to play better than we did last time we played them. We know what they’re about. We just have to bring our best game. Right now if you don’t bring it, you’re going home.”