Manheim Township Holds Off Furious Lebanon Charge, Surge Into Playoffs On Five Game Win Streak

 (Tyler Crespo Starred In The Streaks’ Win Over Lebanon With 37 Points)

 

 

As an athlete, there are just certain nights that you will never forget. As a high school athlete in particular, one night you’ll remember forever is the final home game of your career. A final curtain calls which includes all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it to simply be known as “Senior Night.” And for a talented group of Lebanon Cedar seniors that helped take their city on a handful of memorable postseason rides the last few seasons, Wednesday night offered the last chance for those special Cedar seniors to put on the home garb one last time as Lebanon was set to close the book on their 2017-18 campaign against playoff-bound Manheim Township.

For Manheim Township, Wednesday night really just served as another night at the office. Coming off a feisty rivalry game on the road at rival Warwick just 48 hours earlier, the Streaks were tasked with yet another daunting turnaround as MT trekked northward to tangle with the Cedars in the final section game of the year in LL Boys Basketball.

If anything, Township was hoping to carry over just a morsel of their performance that they enjoyed against the Cedars in the first meeting of the season. A victory which went the way of the Blue Streaks in the form of a 75-40 knockout decision. And while MT was hoping for a victory first and foremost in the midweek against Lebanon, the Streaks were also looking to make the final in-game touchups before Saturday afternoon as the Streaks are set to help raise the curtain on this year’s postseason in the LL Tournament play-in game against Garden Spot.

However as Township soon discovered, the second time around would not be nearly as easy.

All things considered, the game couldn’t have started off much better for the Streaks. Aided by an early Tyler Crespo 3 ball, a sign of things yet to come, MT exploded out of the chute to take a commanding 7-0 lead over their hosts in the early stages of Thursday night’s affair.

Fortunately for the home-standing Cedars, their spectacular junior forward was there to pick up the slack as Sincere Scott would then author a 4-0 rebuttal of his own to get the Cedars back within three at 7-4. From there, the Cedars were able to get the deficit down to the slimmest of margins as a Jahlil Young kiss off the glass made it a one point 7-6 advantage in favor of Township.

But just as he would all game long, Tyler Crespo proved to be a serious thorn in Lebanon’s side. The 5’11” junior guard would see the early Cedar charge and respond by splashing his second and third triples of the first quarter to increase the MT lead to 13-9, creating some early game breathing room between themselves and the Cedars.

Yet Lebanon refused to go away in its final game of the season. After the back to back Crespo triples, the Cedars bounced back with a 6-2 march of their own to tie things up in the final meeting between the two Section 1 foes, 15-15 at the three minute mark of the opening quarter.

Unfortunately for Lebanon, it would only be a case of bad déjà vu from that point on as Crespo fired in another pair of back to back bombs to give Township a six point lead at 23-17, only to see Lebanon’s Josh Kauffman answer back with a trifecta to cut the MT lead down to three at 23-20 once the first quarter clock finally expired.

The back and forth battle only continued to rage on once the second quarter got underway. In fact, the Cedars were able to close the gap down to within a point at 29-28 following a transition layup from Jahlil Young, but then proceeded to watch Township rattle off the next eight as a triple in the corner drilled by MT senior guard Tommy Mann put Township in front 37-28 at the 2:45 mark of the second stanza.

And then just as he had all game long to that point, Tyler Crespo again dialed up a bomb from long range as the starting point guard buried his sixth triple of the half to give the Blue Streaks the 40-28 advantage with the first half winding down.

But yet before the clock hit triple zeroes, Lebanon was able to mount a bit of a rally as a 5-0 Sincere Scott flurry got the Cedars within a touchdown at 40-33 with just 1:35 left to go in the opening half. Once the clock did ultimately run out, the Manheim Township cushion would sit at seven as the Streaks raced into the halftime break in front 42-35, aided significantly by a dazzling 20 point first half performance constructed by Tyler Crespo.

Once the second half got underway, the 3 ball continued to come to the aid of Manheim Township. And surprise, surprise—this time it was not from Mr. Crespo.

Instead, it was Zach Oldac’s turn to show off his all-around game as the 6’3” sophomore forward knocked one down from bonus distance as Oldac would go on to claim the silver medal in terms of Blue Streak scoring honors, finishing the evening with a solid 16 point outing.

Although Oldac would be credited with the first big Blue Streak bucket to start the final half, You Know Who was still lurking around to pour in some more points to his already spectacular night.

Following the 3 ball that was cashed in by Oldac, Crespo got loose his seventh, yes seventh, trifecta of the game, adding to the Blue Streak lead which now stood at 51-37 at the 5:45 mark of the third.

And although Lebanon would be able to get it back to ten at 51-41 following a bucket underneath by Mr. Everything for the Cedars, Luis Aquino Rios, Township would go on to outscore Lebanon 13-7 the rest of the way as a Tyler Crespo floater just before the horn helped usher Township into the final eight minutes of the regular season on top of Lebanon 64-48.

But just when it seemed that Township would be able to run away and hide the rest of the way, Lebanon refused to give an inch to the invaders from Neffsville. A late game Cedar charge that Township would be forced to withstand that in many ways, served as the perfect microcosm to describe their stick-to-itiveness down the final furlong of the regular season.

It all began with what seemed like a harmless albeit strong, physical hoop inside by Luis Aquino Rios to cut the Township lead down to 68-52 with 5:30 left to play. From there, a 3 ball cashed in by 5’8” senior guard Jessy Martinez followed suit and after a strong take to the rack by 6’1” senior forward Felix Kortright, the Cedars had suddenly closed the gap back down to ten at 68-58 with now 3:30 left to go.

However just when the waters seemed to get a little choppy, much in the same vein that they did on Tuesday night as the Streaks waged a war against Warwick, Township continued to have the answer sheet for the questions posed of them as Township navigated past the ensuing Cedar press, coming away with critical late game buckets inside by Zach Oldac and Brendan Mellott respectively to keep Lebanon at bay with the Cedar snowball starting to roll downhill.

But the Cedars did not go down without a fight. After a pair of free throws by Aquino Rios, fellow senior Josh Kauffman was able to hit from bonus distance to slice the Township lead down to just a mind-boggling four as the Cedars seemingly came out of nowhere to make things very interesting with time slowly ticking away.

And once again right on cue, Township was able to get past the intense Cedar D as a Hilton Ridley bunny from point blank range was followed up by a pair of Tyler Crespo freebies at the charity stripe to put MT back up by seven at 77-70.

Needless to say, Tyler Crespo was a one man wrecking crew for Township as the Streaks’ all-league guard turned in one the best nights of work the LL has this seen this season, finishing with 37 points, 21 of which came from behind the arc.

However Lebanon wasn’t done yet. Not by a longshot.

Needing to score with time of the essence, the Cedars turned to their marvelous senior guard Luis Aquino Rios to help lead them home. And luckily for the Red and Blue clad faithful, he was nearly able to do exactly that, finishing off a sweet spin move while attacking the tin to cut the Township lead down to size at 79-74 with just 16.9 left to go.

On the night, Aquino Rios finished off his remarkable Cedar career in style, dropping a team-high 30 points on the Blue Streaks Thursday night.

Incredibly, the tension didn’t end there. Following a 1-2 trip to the foul line on the ensuing Township offensive possession, Sincere Scott was able to rise and fire from 3, connecting on his third and final triple of the evening. On the evening, Scott fell just short of Aquino Rios in the Cedar scoring department, as Sincere Scott closed the book on his stellar junior campaign with a 27 point night of work.

From there, Township was again able to break the Cedar 94 foot press one last time, sending junior forward Tyler Vicidomini to the stripe with the game on the line. And with the poise and collectiveness of a battle-hardened senior, Vicidomini proceeded to knock down both, making for a happy ride back to Neffsville as Manheim Township roared into the postseason by knocking off a very game Lebanon squad, 82-77 on the Cedars’ home floor.

NEXT UP: With the regular season now behind them, Township turns their attention to Garden Spot in the opening round LL play-in game on Saturday afternoon at Hempfield with a tip time set for 2pm. And for going up against a guard-heavy attack that the Spartans like to employ with their lightning-quick trigger men leading the way, the last two ballgames likely could not have served as a better precursor for Manheim Township as far as what they expect to see this weekend against the Section 2 third place finishers from New Holland.

“These two teams as much as possible have prepared us to get ready for Garden Spot,” Manheim Township head coach Matt Johns said when describing the Streaks last two opponents in Warwick and Lebanon respectively. “Garden Spot has very, very good guards. They’re slashers and they’re shooters so from that perspective, this is significantly better than practice time for that.”

And while some may view the end of the regular season as mad dash to the finish line, the Streaks have taken the role more of endurance runners down the final stretch run. “We couldn’t relax. We couldn’t rest in the last week,” Johns added when describing Township’s closing arguments concerning the regular season slate. “We’ve had to stay sharp. Not only last week were we playing for league seeding, but we were playing for district seeding all this week. Thus to continue to play, I’m glad we needed to stay sharp. I’m glad we didn’t coast our way into the playoffs.”

Overall, it’s a Blue Streaks outfit that Coach Johns appears to be quite content with heading into postseason play. “I like what we’re doing on the offensive end,” the Township head man said of his team’s propensity to fill it up. “I think we’re really hard to guard. We scored against a 2-3 zone today, we scored against a diamond and one, we scored against man to man, and we scored against the press,” Johns detailed while hoping that Thursday’s showcase can be parlayed into future offensive performances from here. Even still, it was a night that was not without it’s flaws.

“I didn’t like our turnovers against the press,” Johns stated in the postgame. “I think part of that is a reflection of (Lebanon) going to the press so late and there’s a little bit of a mental relaxation there but they continued to play really, really hard and they pushed the pace,” Johns added praising the Cedars.

As far as the other end of the court is concerned?

“Defensively we’re still a work in progress,” the MT boss explained. “There are times where I think we look really, really tough and all of a sudden we give up a spurt… We didn’t rebound as well as we normally do. I think part of that is that they were so guard and perimeter-oriented that players were all over the place. I thought in the second half that our guards did a better job of coming down in and I know Hilton Ridley pulled a couple down, Zach Oldac pulled some down, and Ty Crespo pulled a couple off the ground. That’s what we need. We need gang rebounding against those perimeter-oriented teams.”

Lo and behold, Township’s next opponent is one that just so happens to fit such a description. And it’s a team that has MT’s undivided attention. “I think they’re really good,” Johns said previewing Garden Spot. “Their guards are really tough. There were times where I’m watching them last night (against Solanco) saying ‘Man, how are we going to guard that?’ They have some good actions going on,” Johns said of the task at hand in terms of slowing down Spot’s offensive weaponry. “I think it’s going to be a good game. I’ve been impressed with the job that Ryan (Trupe) has been doing with them.”

While Township lives on to play on other day, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Cedars. And although Thursday night’s affair marked the end of the line for a bevy of talented seniors who have left behind an indelible mark on the historic Lebanon Boys Basketball program, the Cedars certainly have an ace up their sleeve heading into next season.

Pound for pound, Sincere Scott is the most talented all-around player in the entire Lancaster Lebanon League. And anytime you can return firepower of that caliber when coupled with a cat-quick backcourt the likes of speed demons Jahlil Young and Leighton Rivera, the Cedars certainly appear to be more than just a threat in the new and improved LL Section 2 beginning next year.

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