While it may be true that the 2018-19 high school basketball season is still only in its infancy, it would also be valid to suggest that the opening weekend of the season has already provided us with intriguing storylines and teams to follow after just the first few initial days of action. Perhaps none more so than the Cedar Crest Falcons.
Sure, the jury may have been out on the Falcons to some degree coming into year given the departure of last year’s two-headed monster in Blake Thomson and Cole Laney, but if anyone was projected to play a role in perhaps unseating the overwhelming preseason favorite to win both Lancaster-Lebanon Section 1 and the league title outright in Manheim Township, it figured to be Cedar Crest.
And so far, the Falcons have played the part remarkably well.
This past weekend in the annual Lebanon Tip-Off Tournament, Cedar Crest made quick work of the competition by completing a clean Lebanon County sweep by dismantling a dangerous ELCO squad by 31 points in the opening round, before following that up Saturday night with a 10 point triumph over bitter cross-town rival Lebanon, thanks in large part to a 32 point effort spearheaded by Falcons senior guard and tournament MVP, Logan Horn. So, with only one day rest sandwiched in between, Cedar Crest continued to live life on the road Monday night with a trip to Berks County to matchup with the undefeated Wyomissing Spartans.
Spoiler alert: Even with a day of rest, the Falcons looked just fine.
For Cedar Crest head coach Tommy Smith, he couldn’t have possibly drawn up a better start to Monday’s game had he tried with his own pen and paper. In fact, it took the Falcons all of 10 seconds to find the bottom of the well as Logan Horn pulled up for a jumper the first trip down the floor go things rolling for the Falcons and from there, it was curtains.
The early Cedar Crest bulge would grow as large at 6-0 before Wyomissing senior guard Julius Jordan would answer back with a much-needed trifecta to spark the Spartans’ offensive attack, narrowing the gap down 7-4 around the midway point of the opening quarter. But from that point on, the Falcons only continued to soar.
Aided by a sweet Euro-step finish at the cup by physically imposing 6’7 junior forward Ileri Ayo-Faleye, the Cedar Crest lead got pushed back up to a touchdown at 11-4 before Logan Horn only continued to pour salt into the Spartans’ open wound by splashing in another trey which then put the Falcons up by a dozen at 16-4.
The only thing was, Mr. Horn wasn’t exactly done putting on a show.
In fact, he continued on with his usual exploits by knocking down a nice pullup jumper just before the first quarter buzzer rang out, putting the finishing touches on the dominating early display by the visiting blue-clad Falcons, as the Cedar Crest lead had ballooned to a commanding 20-6 advantage at the conclusion of the opening quarter.
Yet for as much damage as Logan Horn was able to inflict upon the opposition in the game’s opening eight minutes, Jason Eberhart was there to put on his own personal display once the second quarter got underway as the Falcons’ talented 6’7 junior big man was able to score the first seven points of the quarter for Cedar Crest behind a series of magnificent low-post moves, bolstering the Cedar Crest lead to 27-12 at the 5:30 mark of the second quarter.
Fortunately for Wyomissing, sophomore guard Zach Zechman was able to respond in the face of Cedar Crest’s first half salvo with a series of strong back-to-back takes to the tin which helped get the Spartans back within 20 points at 35-16 with 1:47 left to go in the half. But once the dust had ultimately settled on the first half of action, it showed Cedar Crest in clear command, holding serving at 39-21.
New half, same ole Falcons.
Just as he had begun the contest, Logan Horn looked to be a man on a mission coming out of the intermission as well. The star senior guard got things underway by bombing in yet another trey before fellow senior starter, Brody Dunlop, was able to collect some loose change around bucket and put it back up and in, allowing the Falcons to double-up their hosts at 51-25 with 2:35 left to go in the third. From there, Horn only continued with his hot shooting touch by spraying yet another 3-ball on the next trip down with Horn already well on his way to finishing with team-high scoring honors, finishing with a remarkable 28 points worth of work, as the Falcons closed the books on the third period in possession of the 56-28 advantage.
With the gap already as wide as it currently was, it was time for the nucleus of the Falcons’ roster to get in on the action and contribute to Monday night’s triumph. And contribute they would.
The fourth quarter scoring bonanza got underway with a gorgeous scoop and score at the tin put in by 5’2 senior guard turned tenacious defender, Neisso Dorvil, making it a 62-30 affair in favor of the Falcons with 6 minutes left to go. Shortly thereafter, it was time for 5’8 junior guard Carson Perlaki to make a dent in the scoring column, doing so promptly by finishing off a nice floater in the paint to put Cedar Crest up 66-31. And on a nifty inbounds play almost immediately after, 6’0 senior guard Trey Kalbach was able to get his name up in lights as well with a nice bucket which drew a rousing roar of approval from the Falcons’ bench.
Yet even with the outcome already well-decided, Wyomissing continued to fight up until the end as evidenced by Julius Jordan coming up with an emphatic rejection on the defensive end, before coming right down the floor and pulling up and firing in transition, culminating what had been the Spartans’ best offensive/defensive exchange of the entire night. On the night, Jordan would go on to share team-high scoring honors junior forward Cesar Melo with both chipping in nine to Spartans’ effort.
But in the end however, the Falcons simply proved to be too much on this night as 6’0 junior guard Derek Kern was able to put the finishing touches on the Falcons’ rout with a free throw to close it out late, sending the Falcons back to Cornwall with a happy ride home as the 73-47 victors.
As mentioned, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed through the first few of days of action that Cedar Crest has put together a nice little stretch of ball here to open the season. And while it may be a surprise to some, that’s not exactly the same way that the head man sees it.
“I don’t think so,” Cedar Crest head coach Tommy Smith said Monday night in the postgame when asked if even he himself was taken aback by just how well the Falcons have looked through the early going. “We had a good summer, had a good team camp, and started to fill our roles in the summer. I didn’t know that it was going to click this fast, but I knew it was going to get there,” Smith said. “The kids are buying in to what we’re doing and it’s working out well.”
And with a lot of new faces jumping head-first into the deep end of varsity action, the Falcons found themselves in the unique situation of playing three games in four days to start the season with no practice time sprinkled in between. Yet even while it might not have been the most advantageous of situations, the Falcons were able to navigate it masterfully.
“You need to practice early on,” Smith said. “We got these three (games) in, but next week is going to be crazy with four games. We have to do our best with such a young team and not a lot of experience to sit down when we have the practice time to watch film and go then onto the court to correct what we see. You need time to do that,” the Falcons’ bench boss went to say. “We’ll be able to do that these next few days, but next week it’s going to be learning on the fly.”
NEXT UP: From here, Cedar Crest will at long last be able to get that much-desired practice time for much of this week before matching up preseason Section 2 favorite, Elizabethtown, at home in “The Cage” on Friday night. And about that stretch coming up that Coach Smith was eluding to? Yeah, it’s not exactly for the faint of heart. Starting on Monday, the Falcons will turn right back around and play Lebanon once again. After that, they’ll prepare for a dangerous Ephrata squad before finishing the week out with an always tricky road trip to Warwick. But if anyone appears ready for the challenge ahead, it certainly appears to be this group of Cedar Crest Falcons.
For Wyomissing, the Spartans will look to ease the pain of tonight’s defeat with short turnaround in their own right as Wyo entertains Blue Mountain at home on Wednesday night.