For some of us, the start of a new year brings with it the hopeful promise of those age-old resolutions that are used as a means of self-motivation to help better ourselves over the course of the upcoming 365 days. And while those lists generally start off in some form the following manner, whether it be working out more, eating healthier, or getting more sleep, the reality is that it can be anything you wish to put your mind to. In the world of high school basketball, New Year’s resolutions can be a very real thing too. Take Cedar Cliff and Donegal for example. If you were to ask them, finding that precious winning formula would undoubtedly be at the top of their priority lists heading into 2019.
For both the Colts and Indians, it’d be fair to say that the first month of the season has not been exactly what either squad had in mind when the season got underway in full three weeks ago as evidenced by the one win shared between the two squads heading into the Christmas break respectively. Yet even while the month of December has not exactly been filled with “holiday cheer” for either ballclub thus far, that does not mean that the remainder of this season should be considered over and done with by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, quite the contrary should you happen to spend some time with Cedar Cliff head coach Tigh Savercool.
“They’re a very young group,” Savercool said of his squad this season. “We do have a couple guys that are returning varsity players for us and all of those returning guys bring good leadership and good experience. They play the game the right way. The younger guys, they’re just going through a seasoning period right now where the game’s going a little bit faster.”
“I tell everyone, ‘I wouldn’t want to play us in January or February,’ Savercool went on to add. “These youngsters are going to continue to get better and better. They just need time to see the game go a little bit slower.”
And as fate would have it, both Cedar Cliff and Donegal would have the opportunity to garner some much-needed momentum heading into the new calendar year as the Colts and Indians just so happened to be lined up against one another on Friday night in the opening round of the East Pennsboro Holiday Tournament in Enola.
In terms of starting fast, things could have possibly been scripted any better for Cedar Cliff right from outset with Colts’ junior guard Joey Zvorsky finishing with a lay-in off the game’s initial tip, allowing Cedar Cliff to draw first blood within the first five seconds of the contest.
But as Cedar Cliff was about to find out, putting Donegal away would prove to be an assignment that was anything but easy.
In fact, not only would Donegal hang around and stay within shouting distance throughout much of the first period, they would proceed to tie things up at 7-7 following an old-fashioned three point play administered by Indian junior guard Ryan Zuch, before eventually overtaking the lead after four consecutive points pumped in by 6’1 junior forward Jacob Shoemaker, making it an 11-9 contest in favor of the Indians with 2:30 left to go in the first.
Yet even while Zvorsky was able to keep inflicting damage against the opposition as evidenced by collecting an offensive rebound and promptly finishing with a put-back to knot things back up at 11-11 just one minute later, Donegal would go on to close the game’s opening quarter with possession of the lead, 14-11.
While the first quarter largely served as an exchange of buckets back and forth between the two teams, the second quarter would go just a little bit different. Well, actually a lot different quite honestly.
To put it mildly, the atmosphere in which the game’s first quarter was contested was not exactly one that would have been confused with something reminiscent of the playoffs. So, with that mind, someone needed to step up and take over as a means to provide their team with an emotional spark to help pull them through.
Enter Joey Zvorsky for Cedar Cliff.
Much in the same vein that he began the first quarter, Zvorsky wasted little time in making his mark during the second quarter Friday night as well. In fact, after four straight points from the Colts’ junior guard within the first 1:30 of the second stanza, Cedar Cliff had retaken the lead at 15-14.
From there, the Colts would never look back in the rearview mirror.
After Zvorsky’s early second quarter work which clearly had gotten Cedar Cliff off on the right foot, the Colts only continued to expand their lead as a dead-on triple splashed in by senior guard Trey Law put Cedar Cliff up 18-14 courtesy of a gorgeous offensive set. But the Colts weren’t satisfied with a mere four point cushion. No, they were looking for more. Sure enough, the Cedar Cliff advantage would eventually swell up to ten points after a pair of Mo Clark free throws, making it a 24-14 affair with 3:28 left to go in the opening half.
But just when Cedar Cliff likely thought that they were finally out of the woods and wouldn’t have to deal with Donegal for the rest of the evening, the Indians immediately came back on the offensive.
Sparked by a Ryan Zuch jumper which had finally put an end to the 13-0 Cedar Cliff salvo following the Mo Clark freebies just moments earlier, Donegal kept nibbling away at the Colts’ lead throughout the duration of the second quarter, eventually closing the gap to within five at the intermission, 29-24.
Throughout much of the third quarter, the cat and mouse game being played between Cedar Cliff and Donegal only continued to rage on. Yet again, just when it had appeared that Donegal was able to claw back and make things extremely interesting heading down the stretch, Cedar Cliff would consistently have the answers to keep the Indians at bay.
Case in point, a smooth pullup jumper cashed in by Donegal’s Reed Licopoli which cut the Indians’ deficit down to a half dozen at 35-29, only to see that be immediately followed up by a trifecta fired by Cedar Cliff’s Chris Dare, allowing the Colts to flirt with a double digit lead once again as the third quarter neared its midway point.
However, as you can probably guess by now, Donegal would once again rally the troops and come charging on to close the quarter, ultimately slicing the Cedar Cliff lead down to just three at the conclusion of the third quarter courtesy of four straight points by way of 6’1 senior guard Reed Licopoli, making it anyone’s game at 38-35 heading into the final frame.
With the outcome still clearly up for grabs, it was once again time for someone to emerge and step to the forefront. And right on cue, Joey Zvorsky took his leading role on center stage.
With his team dancing delicately on the razor’s edge of possibly letting this game slip away, Zvorsky played with the poise and courageousness of a battle-tested veteran by collecting a steal and finishing with a layup on the offensive end to get the fourth quarter underway, upping the Cedar Cliff lead back up to six at 41-35. And just when it had appeared that Cedar Cliff would finally be able to put the Indians away once and for all after increasing their lead to eight following a nice move inside by big man Derrick Love, Donegal came right back down the floor and cut back in to the Colts’ lead after a successful jumper was nailed by Ryan Zuch.
But just when it had appeared that Donegal had begun the process of igniting a possible late-game rally, Cedar Cliff’s Trey Law was there to put a stop to those dreams as the Colts’ senior guard popped an enormous 3-ball for the immediate answer, largely slamming the door on the Indians’ threat once and for all.
Fittingly, with the game drawing to a close, Joey Zvorsky was able to put the finishing touches on things by sinking a pair of late game free throws to cap his magnificent performance by turning in a game-high 20 point effort to help send Cedar Cliff into the finals on Saturday night against Greencastle-Antrim.
NEXT UP: As mentioned, Cedar Cliff now must turn right back around and refocus in hopes of bringing a championship trophy back home to Camp Hill late Saturday night. And while a championship would undoubtedly mean a lot as a springboard into 2019, this weekend at East Pennsboro is serving a bigger purpose for this group of Colts as Coach Savercool explained.
“We’re still young and learning how to win,” said Savercool. “Ultimately, we take wins no matter how ugly they may be. We just continue to preach getting better every day as cliché as that may sound.”
“We just have to continue to build positive momentum and be a team that doesn’t hurt ourselves,” the head man continued. “We’ve said it already in the locker room. We feel that we have yet to actually get beat by a team. We have actually beaten ourselves. We’re sitting here with five losses, but I don’t think we’ve gone to the locker room and said, ‘You know what, a better team just beat us.’ There may have been teams that were better that beat us, but it was because we did a lot of stuff unforced that we have to clean up.”
For Donegal, the Indians’ quest to find that elusive first win this season will continue Saturday evening when the gang from Mount Joy saddles up and travels to Enola once again to match up with host East Pennsboro in the consolation game.