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Cedar Crest punches ticket to Giant Center

It's not that the Cedar Crest girls basketball team isn't excited about the prospect of playing at Giant Center. After all, if you're a Central Pennsylvania high school hoops team, there's no place you'd rather be this time of year than the big floor in Chocolatetown.

But the Falcons have kind of been there, done that, when it comes to playing at Giant Center after district semifinal losses there the last two years.

So yeah, Cedar Crest is happy to be planning another trip to Giant Center after Thursday night's 47-38 6A district quarterfinal win over familiar foe McCaskey. But this time it will be an all-business kind of visit, when the Falcons arrive in Hershey on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to take on Central Dauphin in the District 3 6A semifinals.

"It's not about going to the Giant Center and playing," Crest coach Jim Donmoyer told his troops afterward. "It was about that the last two years and we lost in the semifinals both times. That's not our plan this year."

No, after improving to 26-0 after their fourth victory over McCaskey of this season, the Falcons just won't be happy to be there when they set foot in the Giant Center this time.

And why should they be? They're still sporting an unbeaten record as February melts away and have Section One and Lancaster-Lebanon League titles already in tow. The next logical step is to play for and win a district championship.

"Last year, we were just happy to be there," said senior center Alyssa Austin, who buried five 3-pointers and popped in a game-high 20 points on Thursday night. "This year, we have a chance, a good chance. We know we can get it done."

Cedar Crest got it done for the fourth time against increasingly pesky McCaskey, which pushed the Falcons to the wall before falling 49-43 in the L-L championship game last Thursday.

Led by Ahnera Parker's 17 points, the Red Tornado (18-9) provided another stern challenge Thursday, playing Crest on mostly even terms. But Austin's big night and a nice 12-point supporting effort from getting-better-all-the-time sophomore forward Raven Morgan assured the Falcons would only trail briefly, taking the lead for good on an Austin '3' with 2:47 left in the half.

Kinda nice to have a 6-1 center that can dominate in the paint and step out and shoot 3s like a guard if needed.

"I don't know where that came from," Austin said sheepishly. "They were getting me the ball and I was confident shooting it. And they were going in."

"It's real nice," Donmoyer said of the luxury Austin provides with her outside shooting skills. "When they got close, she hit a 3. When we needed a basket she hit a 3. She was huge the whole game."

Still, McCaskey went down most reluctantly. Crest looked ready to bust the game open after an Ariel Jones 3-point play that made it a 30-21 game with 5:22 left in the third quarter, but the Tornado kept coming, pulling back to within 34-28 after three quarters. McCaskey was still within 6 at 36-30 on an Alissa Johnson steal and layup with 6:45 left.

But Austin answered with her fifth '3' of the night less than a minute later to take most of the wind out of McCaskey's sails. What was still left was taken away by Jones hitting 4 of 5 free throw attempts in the final 1:11 to lock up the win and keep Crest perfect for another night.

"Every team eventually loses," Donmoyer said, turning philosophical. "If we go 33-0, then pinch me all over. But at some point in time, be realistic about it, you're gonna have a bad day and somebody's gonna have a good day. But we haven't yet. It's pretty impressive for these kids. 26-0 is not easy to do, I don't care what level. It's takes a lot to put together what we're putting together. We're not stressing, we're enjoying it."

Cedar Crest 47, McCaskey 38

McCaskey (38)

Johnson 1 0-0 2, Gibson 2 0-0 5, Short 1 0-0 3, Perry 2 0-0 4, Parker 7 2-2 17, Todd 1 0-0 2, Richardson 1 3-4 5, Reid-White 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 5-6 38.

Cedar Crest (47)

Jones 2 5-6 9, Donmoyer 1 0-0 3, Witherite 1 0-0 3, Morgan 6 0-1 12, Austin 7 1-2 20, Rolon 0 0-0 0, Guth 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 6-9 47.

McCaskey 8 11 9 10 - 38

Cedar Crest 11 14 9 13 - 47

3-pointers: M - Parker, Short, Gibson, CC - Austin 5, Donmoyer, Witherite