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McCaskey boys hold off Cedar Crest for L-L title

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NEFFSVILLE - A quick shake of his shoulders, then one wily step back move and suddenly there was Evan Horn, calmly drilling a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer Thursday.

The sequence itself was hardly unexpected for anyone who's taken in a Cedar Crest boys basketball game these last four years, when the Falcons navigated their way each season to the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship. But the context of this Horn trey, in particular the score, certainly was surprising. For even after their captain's theatrics, the Falcons trailed McCaskey in the 2016 league title game, a fact they could never quite escape, no matter how many flashes of their championship past seemed to reappear, perhaps forecasting a familiar fate.

Denied a chance to three-peat as L-L champions, Cedar Crest fell, 54-47, to the rival Red Tornado for the third time in as many meetings this season. McCaskey's Randolph Speller and Ricky Cruz each collected 16 points, while Horn scored a game-high 24 to complement his team-best 14 rebounds. The Red Tornadoes led for all but the opening 0:29 of the second half at Manheim Twp., buoyed by repeated second-chance points down the stretch.

“Our biggest issue was defensive rebounding, especially the second half,” Falcons coach Tom Smith said. “We’d get stops that we needed and then we didn’t do a very good defensive rebounding. And I think we also turned the ball over sometimes. We’d get a stop or turn them over and we’d turn it over right back.”

The closest Cedar Crest came to completing its comeback registered at 2:28 to go, when senior Raymie Ferreira converted an old fashion 3-point play for a 44-41 deficit. Coming out of an ensuing Falcons timeout, McCaskey hit back immediately through a Cruz follow-up, one all too familiar sight for Smith and company.

Cruz scored a combined 60 points over the teams' pair of regular-season clashes and dropped 10 after halftime Thursday.

“He killed us today," Smith said of Cruz. "Hats off to him. He's had three good games against us.”

McCaskey captain Kobe Gantz finished with nine points in his final Lancaster-Lebanon League contest and knocked down two of the final free throws that eventually put Cedar Crest to bed for good. Gantz stood on the same gym floor one year ago after the Falcons staked a 70-66 title victory.

“I haven’t had a league championship since I’ve been here, so winning that and doing it with my guys, it’s just a great feeling,” Gantz said.

The senior also had a simple explanation for the stream of put-backs that kept his dream of a title alive this time around.

“The hustle plays that nobody usually notices are the biggest parts of the game,“ Gantz explained.

Hustle was the perfect definition of Cedar Crest's game early, scrapping itself to a one-basket margin after the first quarter and a 21-21 deadlock at halftime. But the Falcons' floaters and layups that fell early on, later carried a bit too much sauce and spun into enemy hands, allowing for extra possessions and a slow defeat.

Three different Crest players, Horn, Iziah Trimble and Blake Thomson, scored at least five points in the first half. But of the trio, only Horn went on to crank out more than two post-intermission.

“They wanted to get back here, they wanted to play here, they wanted to cut nets. And they put themselves in a position to do so," Smith said, "but came up just short tonight.”

McCaskey 54, Cedar Crest 47

Cedar Crest (47)

Kobe Bolanos 0 0-0 0, Blake Thomson 3 1-2 7, Iziah Trimble 2 0-0 6, Dylan Miller 1 1-2 3, Tate Seyfert 1 0-0 2, Raymie Ferreira 1 3-5 5, Evan Horn 8 6-7 24. Totals — 16 11-16 47.

McCaskey (54)

Kobe Gantz 3 3-6 9, Ricky Cruz 6 3-6 16, Izaiah Baratta 2 1-2 5, Greg Nunez 4 0-0 8, Jathan Gonzalez 9 0-0 0, Randolph Speller 6 3-9 16. Totals — 21 10-23 54.

Cedar Crest_ 11_ 10 _ 13_ 13 — _ 47

McCaskey_ 13_ 9_ 15_ 18 _ — _ 54

3-point goals — CC 4 (Horn 2, Trimble 2), McC 2 (Speller, Cruz).