If you were to sit down and spend time with someone who is deeply involved in the game of basketball, particularly those involved at the high school level, odds are they would tell you that the roundball game is now a year-long commitment. And truth be told, they really wouldn’t be lying.
It’s true. While it may be hard to fathom considering that the PIAA state championships only wrapped up just a few days ago in nearby Hershey, the reality of the situation is that several other teams from around the state who were not as fortunate to make it to the self-proclaimed, “Sweetest Place on Earth,” have already begun offseason weight room, shooting, and conditioning workouts in hopes that they too can make the necessary improvements to make a deep postseason romp for the year that lies ahead.
As far as the Lancaster-Lebanon League is concerned, the year that was (still seems odd to say that about the 2018-19 season) unofficially began in early May with summer league contests kicking off at Central PA’s Taj Mahal, the Spooky Nook Sports Complex, and continued onward until the time of school tryouts around mid-November which helped set the stage for another exciting year in the annals of L-L hoops.
Perhaps it would be best to start off with the freshman class when discussing the 40,000-foot view of this past year. No, not the incoming 9th graders that had finally rose up to the varsity ranks mind you, but the two new schools themselves. This season, the L-L welcomed aboard Lancaster Country Day and Octorara into the fray. And to their credit, neither the Cougars nor the Braves disappointed as each school made the postseason. For Country Day, the Cougars went on to capture their school’s first District-3 title this season and came within a whisker of advancing to the state quarterfinal round in the 1A ranks. So, needless to say, it was a very productive first year for both LCD and Octorara respectively.
As far as the “bluebloods” were concerned, this year once again saw the unique accomplishment of a school rising up to claim it’s first-ever league title as Manheim Township rightfully joined their brethren from Lampeter-Strasburg in making school history to obtain the honors of league supremacy. Speaking of the postseason, this year saw the L-L claim one District 3 championship in the aforementioned Cougars of Lancaster Country Day, with another seven additional teams advancing on to play in the prestigious state tournament.
And while many may have considered the long and winding 2018-19 Lancaster-Lebanon League boys’ basketball season that began way back in the infancy of summer to finally come a close a few weeks ago once Lancaster Catholic lost their second-round 4A state playoff game to Archbishop Carroll in Reading, the fact of the matter was that there was still one bit of business left to attend to before closing the year out once and for all with the annual senior all-star game which took place on Wednesday night at Hempfield.
Once the game itself got underway, it quickly became evident to all those in attendance that the highlights would not be in short supply.
Early on, both the “Home” squad and the “Away” squad (interesting team names, yes?) traded body blows back and forth. Starting off the festivities was Manheim Township’s all-time leading scorer, Tyler Crespo, who showed off his long-range prowess by bombing in three triples to get the night underway. Speaking of 3-balls, Cedar Crest’s Logan Horn and Lancaster Country Day’s Andrew Williams were also seen dialing long-distance as the outgoing floor generals for both the Falcons and Cougars took turns matching trifectas against one another to knot the score up at 23-23 in a fast-moving first quarter.
And with the opening stanza drawing to a close, Solanco’s Dawson Kreider took his turn at firing from bonus distance as the Golden Mules’ do-it-all senior point guard sprayed in a triple of his own heading down the stretch as the scoreboard fittingly showed a difference of three points between the two sides at the end of the first quarter, 33-30.
In the second quarter, particularly in the opening stages, the lights shined brightest for the hometown hero, Hempfield’s Eli Washington.
With his team trailing to start the quarter, Washington promptly poured in a magnificent step-back triple to trim his team’s deficit down to a pair at 35-33 before following that up with a determined take to the rack which helped his white-clad teammates regain the lead at 47-46, as Washington quickly became the first all-star to reach double figures on the evening.
From there, the 3-point shooting barrage continued to remain in full effect as buckets sunk by way of Kreider and Lancaster Catholic’s Johnny Besecker respectively helped the dark-uniformed visitors retake control at 68-66 once a wild and crazy opening half eventually met its retirement.
While the third stanza opened up with the Away team in command of the scoreboard, Tyler Crespo certainly made a valiant effort to help stem the tide early on as the Blue Streaks’ four-year starting point guard executed a nifty between-the-legs pass to himself, much to the bewilderment of his on-ball defender, as Crespo’s highlight reel lay-in allowed his side to exhale once more with a newfound four-point cushion at 72-68.
Yet even with the hosts starting to slice the lead down to size, their guests reupped the lead shortly thereafter on an alley-oop dunk with Lancaster Catholic’s Dwayne Caine being the beneficiary on the receiving end which helped exercise the difference back to a half dozen at 80-74 with 5:30 left in the third period.
However, thanks in large to part to, you guessed it, the three-point shot, the home side eventually came roaring all the way back 3-balls popped by Eli Washington and Lebanon Catholic’s Devin Root respectively helped knot things back up at 82-82. Speaking of trifectas, Cocalico’s Connor Mack then took his turn at showing off his marksmanship as the Eagles’ departing guard poured in one of his trademark treys to give the lead back to the guests at 93-90 with the third quarter rapidly winding down. And once the dust finally did settle on the third quarter of play, the visitors had already eclipsed the century mark by virtue of their 101-94 advantage.
With only ten minutes left to be played in their scholastic careers, it was obvious that authoring one outgoing highlight to ultimately be remembered by was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In that regard, it’s perhaps best to start off once again with Township’s Tyler Crespo who came up with a nasty, ferocious one-handed dunk, giving L-L fans one last memory of arguably the best Blue Streak to ever lace up the sneakers.
And while the dunks were certainly just cause to get up and celebrate, the “in the gym range” exhibited by nearly everyone in uniform was perhaps the most remarkable feat exhibited throughout the entirety of the evening. While we’re on the topic of conversation, Solanco’s Dawson Kreider then dazzled the league-wide crowd heading down the homeward stretch by firing in back-to-back NBA triples to give his team the monstrous 131-116 advantage with time running out. For his efforts, Kreider ended up finishing his L-L career on a surefire high note by unofficially tying Hempfield’s Eli Washington with game-high scoring honors as Washington and Kreider each bucketed a 23-point night of work.
But when speaking on the topic of dunks, arguably no one in the Lancaster-Lebanon League was more famous for his exploits above the rim this season than E-Town’s Larry Locker. And right on cue with the game winding down, Locker finished off the evening in style by throwing down a windmill dunk, helping close out both the evening and the season with perhaps the most apropos of memories as far as the 2018-19 Lancaster-Lebanon League campaign is concerned with the Away side eventually emerging victorious over their fellow league counterparts, 141-120.