Cedar Crest Uses Last Minute Rally To Surge Past Penn Manor, Remain Tied Atop Section One Standings

Written by: on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021


If you’ve been following along throughout the first few days and nights of the 2020-21 Lancaster-Lebanon Boys’ Basketball season, it’s become rather apparent that one of the worst kept secrets is that Section One figures to be a wild roller coaster ride this year. Though the sample size remains relatively small across the board, no team has been immune to its fair share of peaks and valleys. One of the best examples to help illustrate that narrative? The Cedar Crest Falcons.

Through just their first three games of the seasons, the defending league champions have been all over the place in terms of results. First, a jaw-dropping 40-point setback at the hands of Manheim Township. Next, a fantastic bounce-back effort to knock off arguably the best team in the division, Hempfield, on the Black Knights’ home floor no less, 47-44, before then falling back down with an 18-point defeat against Hershey at home on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, the jury was still out as far as knowing which version of Cedar Crest will end up showing up for the remainder of the season, much less on Tuesday night when the Falcons welcomed Penn Manor into town for Senior Night against a Comets team still trying to find their rhythm as well given their 1-3 overall record coming into the night. All that being said, the one blessing in disguise given the varying different results posted by both the Comets and Falcons thus far on the young season? The fact that Tuesday night in Cornwall figured to be a nip and tuck affair all the way home. And boy oh boy, did that ever ring true in spades.

Early on, both Cedar Crest and Penn Manor took their turns sparring with one another. In fact, neither team was able to get out in front of the other by more than a possession in the opening five minutes as Penn Manor freshman forward, Ethan Benne, helped keep the Comets right in the thick of things in the infant stages of the contest by tallying four of the visitor’s first six points on the evening. However, needing a spark, the Falcons found their triggerman in 6’1 senior, Chris Danz, as the Cedar Crest guard proceed to rip off his own personal 8-0 run, six of which came from behind the arc, giving the homestanding Falcons their largest of the evening at that point, 14-6, forcing Penn Manor to call a timeout and regroup with 1:39 left in the opening frame.

Ultimately, while someone not named Danz would go on to score the next few buckets of the contest, the problem for Penn Manor was that those individuals just so happened to play for the opposition. Case in point, a Nolan Groff flip at the cup coming out of the Comets’ timeout, helping Cedar Crest put together a 12-0 flurry to close out the first quarter proceedings as the Falcons raced into the second stanza with ownership of the 18-6 advantage.

Cleary needing to score while in the depths of an extensive scoring drought at that time, Penn Manor was finally able to quench their thirst with a Jack Shipley trifecta. That was the good news. The bad news? The senior guard’s triple came with nearly the first three minutes of the second quarter clock already having been melted away. Unfortunately for Penn Manor, the hits only seemed to keep on coming following Shipley’s trey. In fact, on the Falcons’ ensuing two trips, triples sunk by Jake Wolfe and Max Scipioni respectively in successive fashion helped the Cedar Crest lead balloon out even further. Then, with their collective shooting from distance already being white-hot, yet another Cedar Crest 3-ball, this one dialed up by I’zaa Reyes-Vega, put the Falcons up by a baker’s dozen at 28-15 with roughly a minute left to play in the opening half.

Remarkably, even though they had largely appeared been out-played through much of the first two periods, the Comets were able to close the gap with a vengeance over the final minute and change.

First, a timely take to the rack by senior guard, Reed Lawrence, on the ensuing Penn Manor offensive trip. Then, almost within the blink of an eye, Penn Manor had ended up closing the half on 7-0 blitzkrieg with the perfect punctuation coming on a dead-eye triple sunk right in front of the Cedar Crest bench by the freshman, Ethan Benne, just moments before the first half horn, helping usher the Comets into the locker room with all the momentum despite the 28-22 deficit.

In the third quarter, Penn Manor was able to pick up right where they had left off.

While he largely been kept in check throughout the duration of the opening 16 minutes, Penn Manor 6’5 senior forward, Brayde Erb, was able to shake himself free from the Falcons’ defense by scoring a pair of deuces inside to close the gap back down to two at 30-28 with 3:45 left to play in the third. Ultimately, while a Jack Shipley bucket at the tin would knot things back up at 30-30 shortly thereafter, it would be an Erb bucket in the immediate aftermath that would give the lead back to the Comets for the first time since the game’s opening few minutes, 32-30, as the Comets’ senior duo had helped erase what appeared to be an insurmountable gap just minutes earlier.

At this point, it became painfully clear that the hosts were amid a serious offensive funk. Needing someone, anyone for that matter, to take command of the ship and help get them back into some sort of groove, the Falcons were able to find their remedy in Matt Smith as the rangy 6’3 senior guard was finally able to break the existing lid placed on the Cedar Crest basket with a strong take to the tin, sending the Comets and Falcons into the final stanza with nothing having been decided whatsoever given that the score remained deadlocked at 32-32.

To their credit, Penn Manor simply refused to flinch as the fourth quarter got underway.

Already having been the Comets’ star throughout much of the third, Brayde Erb was able to pick up right where he had left off by scoring yet another bucket inside in the opening stages of the fourth quarter, ultimately finishing tied with Jack Shipley for team-high scoring honors with each posting a dozen between them respectively at the end of the evening, handing the lead right back to Penn Manor at 36-34 with two minutes having elapsed off the fourth quarter clock. Granted, while a strong and determined take to the rack by way of Cedar Crest’s Janiel Aviles would follow suit following the Erb basket, an impromptu 5-0 run courtesy of the fearless freshman, Ethan Benne, gave the Comets the 41-36 cushion near the midway point of the quarter.

Now, more so than ever before up until that point, someone donning a white jersey needed to end up carrying the mail to help push the Falcons over the finish line. Fortunately for them, they found their answer in a pair of seniors.

First on the scene was 5’8 senior guard, I’zaa Reyes-Vega, knocking down a gargantuan triple to pull Cedar Crest back within a pair, followed immediately then by a steal and finish in transition by Chris Danz, making things all square once again at 41-41 with three minutes left to go.

Speaking of seniors, there was one more left that felt the need to get in on the action as well.

For years now, Cedar Crest has perfected their own spread-out version of the penetrate and pitch and game. In fact, it’s been so successful that other teams around the L-L League have ended up adopting it as their go-to offensive system as well. Ironically enough, their opponents on Tuesday night, Penn Manor, tried their own hand at running a similar version against the Falcons too. That said, there’s a reason as to why the original authors always seem to create the best masterpieces. Case in point, Cedar Crest running their offense within the game’s final minute, peppering the ball around the perimeter to eventually loosen up the Comets’ defense to perhaps find a narrow gap of daylight. Granted, while the daylight wouldn’t come in the form of driving lane to the cup, that was of no concern whatsoever for Max Scipioni as the senior guard rose up and fired a back-breaking trey at the conclusion of the Falcons’ masterful offensive set, handing the lead back to Cedar Crest at 44-41 with 26.7 seconds left to tick off.

On the Comets’ ensuing offensive possession, they too would find the bottom of the well as yet another bunny inside courtesy of Brayde Erb drew Penn Manor back within a point at 44-43, albeit with just 5.4 seconds remaining.

Then, with Penn Manor still having to play the foul game with three fouls left to give, the Comets’ ended up sending Cedar Crest’s Jake Wolfe to the charity stripe with now 2.1 seconds left to go. And while he may only be listed as a junior, the 5’8 guard was able to display all the moxie of a cold-blooded senior by calming knocking down the offering of the one-and-one, making it a 46-43 Cedar Crest lead with Penn Manor being left with just one last-ditch effort.

In the end, it was not to be as the Comets’ long baseball heave would eventually lead to a shot near the timeline which would end up being swatted away, handing the Cedar Crest yet another white-knuckle Section One triumph over a very game Penn Manor squad on Tuesday evening, 46-43.


NEXT UP: Ironically, for as wild as Cedar Crest’s first four games have appeared to be thus far, it’s worth remembering that the Falcons are still running with the lead dogs in Section One while owning a 2-1 divisional mark. Now, Cedar Crest will put that standing right back on the line come Thursday night when they welcome McCaskey into town for the latest edition of that already fierce rivalry between the two schools on the hardwood.

For Penn Manor, while the Comets certainly laid it all out on the line in south Lebanon against Cedar Crest, the road ahead for the Comets appears to be filled with nothing but daunting challenges coming up in the windshield. Case in point, their next three scheduled contests which come against the likes of Section One foes Manheim Township, Hempfield and McCaskey respectively, before getting a “respite” if you will against Cocalico on February 1st against an Eagles team that is currently presiding at the top of the Section Three standings.

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