Lebanon Stands Tall As Cedars Topple Manheim Township In Heavyweight Crossover Fight

Written by: on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

 

It’s been long-believed that taking a break and going far away — in some instances far, far away — can often be the best remedy in terms of clearing your mind and coming back stronger than you were before you left. Granted, while we’re not talking about taking a respite from the stuffy confines of ones’ cubicle here, Manheim Township Boys’ Basketball encountered a similar scenario in their journey up to State College over the holiday break. And while their trip could hardly be labeled as a “vacation,” the fact of the matter remained that it if used correctly, it could have been exactly what the Blue Streaks’ doctor ordered in terms of possibly finding their true selves prior to embarking on the stretch run of their season that heavily revolves around Township’s task at defending their Lancaster-Lebanon League championship.

Sure enough, it appears that the experiment may have ended up working like a charm considering that Township came back home with a trophy for their troubles, capturing the State College Holiday Tournament in posting a pair of back-to-back victories over Freire Charter and the host Little Lions respectively. Yet while the Streaks would stub their toe in their first game back since their return from Happy Valley this past Friday night against McCaskey in a 79-60 final decision, the Streaks quickly rebounded and showed off their mental moxie not even 24 hours later in a 60-49 triumph over West York in the annual War of the Roses Showcase held on Saturday afternoon over at Hempfield High School. And while the McCaskey loss may have taken the wind out of Township’s sails somewhat given the performances they were able to author over the break, the fact of the matter remained that the Blue Streaks were playing their best ball of the season coming into their Monday night blockbuster against Lebanon as best evidenced by their 5-1 record in their last half dozen outings. But current momentum pushed aside for just a moment, you best believe that the Streaks would likely need all of that and then some with the Cedars rolling into town.

When assessing the L-L Section Two race heading into the season, the jury largely felt as if Warwick and E-Town would be the two central figures battling tooth and nail throughout the season against one another to eventually claim outright supremacy over the rest of the pack. Sure, while the Warriors and Bears have appeared to hold up their end of the bargain thus far, the fact remained that there was another school waiting in the weeds — and a proud one at that — just plotting their time to rise up and strike.

For the Lebanon Cedars, this season has been a mixed bag of sorts. After falling in the opening night of the season to fellow Lebanon County rival ELCO on their home floor, the Cedars then responded with a thorough and utter white-washing of Red Land, 70-39. After that, the Cedars’ crossovers against Section One competition bore a handful of interesting fruit considering Lebanon dropped a pair of back-to-back games against arguably the two best teams in the division against McCaskey and Cedar Crest respectively, all by a total of a mere four points. Yet from there, Lebanon had able to find themselves on the exact opposite side of the coin, grinding out hard-fought victories over Hempfield and Penn Manor by a combined total of seven points.

And after claiming second-place in Cedar Crest’s holiday tourney following a 59-49 loss to the homestanding Falcons over the break, Lebanon had gone on to post two straight victories in a 59-22 takedown of Ephrata which quickly followed by a much more dramatic 42-41 triumph over another Lebanon County foe, Palmyra, Saturday night at Lebanon Valley College.

So, needless to say, Monday night’s grudge match between the Blue Streaks and Cedars certainly appeared to be dripping with plenty of intrigue considering all that was at stake for these two hopeful squads given the magnitude that a crucial crossover win could possibly provide either Manheim Township or Lebanon with the juiciest meat of the schedule still left to be chewed off the bone for either one the rest of the way home.

And while Lebanon and Manheim Township may now be relegated as nothing more than a crossover contest, it almost certainly conjured up feelings of an old-school Section One battle given the way in which the Blue Streaks and Cedars squared off against one another on Monday night.

For a game that has so much riding it, it was rather difficult to put a finger on as to how or why neither team got out of the gates to a somewhat tempered pace as both the Cedars and Streaks started off rather sloppy. Yet once one team ultimately did settle into a groove, it proved to be the homestanding Blue Streaks as a tough, physical take to the rack courtesy of 6’3 senior forward, Zach Oldac, put Township up 7-1 with 3:20 left to play in the opening quarter.

Yet for as stingy as Township’s defense was in the early going on Monday evening, the Cedars then found their rhythm on their next offensive trip down the floor, as a fearless 3-ball dialed up by Lebanon sophomore guard, Marquis Ferreira, gave the Cedars their first field goal of the ballgame, trimming the Streaks’ lead down to one possession at 7-4 a mere ten seconds later.

From there, the Cedars continued to settle in from bonus distance as yet another Lebanon trifecta, this one by way of senior forward, Jean Bontemps, made things all square just one minute later at 7-7. Once all was said and done however, Township would eventually head into the second quarter with their lead standing at a pair, 9-7.

Ironically — and in a manner that seemed eerily reminiscent of the quarter that just had just preceded it no less — both teams continued to look rather sluggish in the opening moments of the second stanza as well. So much so in fact that neither team was able to muster any sort of field goal until the 5:20 mark of the frame as a smooth floater in the lane orchestrated by Lebanon senior guard, Raylin Pena, gave the Cedars their first lead of the young evening at 10-9, only to see a sweet pullup jumper sunk by Manheim Township 6’2 junior guard, Dan Engel, give the lead back to the Streaks on Township’s very next trip down the floor.

At that point, it then became apparent that both sides were in for a battle the duration of the night.

Sure enough, just when Township would grab the lead, Lebanon would then promptly retaliate right back. Case in point, a pair of back-to-back takes to the cup from Marquis Ferreira in the immediate aftermath of Engel go-ahead deuce, propelling the Cedars out to the 14-11 advantage with 3:20 left before the break. On the night, Ferriera would prove himself to be arguably Lebanon’s shiniest of stars, finishing things off by bucketing a team-high 18-point effort to aid the Cedars’ cause.

And with the Cedars now starting to find success from point-blank range, it seemed only apropos that they would then step outside the arc and see what sort of damage they could inflict upon the Streaks from there as well. As it would turn out, it would prove to be a devastating amount.

With Lebanon later nursing a two-point cushion at 16-14 later in the second frame, Raylin Pena proceeded to rise and fire from well beyond the three-point line, ultimately finding nothing but pure cotton as the end result, for a bucket which gave the Cedars a key momentum swing in their direction which put Lebanon up, 19-14.

But Pena wasn’t done with just one mind you.

In fact, the Cedars’ diminutive but tough-as-nails sharp-shooter proceeded to rifle in two more from a different area code in the waning moments of the second quarter, ushering Lebanon out to the 25-17 lead, as Township was forced to take an impromptu timeout with 1:01 left before halftime in order to stop the bleeding that had been exacerbated by Pena’s prolific shooting display.

Yet even though Manheim Township would be able to claw somewhat closer over the final minute and change of the first half, the Cedars were able to proudly stroll off the Streaks’ home floor and into the locker room with ownership of the 25-19 lead at the halftime break.

To be clear, the latter stages of the second quarter on Monday night helped serve as a firm and decisive Lebanon Cedar haymaker that had been landed on the temple of their hosts at the tail-end of an opening half that was largely back and forth between the two sides. Sure enough, the Cedars were able to pick up right where they had left off once the third quarter got underway as well.

Coming out of the intermission, Marquis Ferreira was able to ignite the Lebanon-led charge by registering a pair of successful back-to-back takes to the rim in successive fashion which quickly gave the Cedars their largest lead of the night up until that point at 29-19 right out of the chute in the early stages of Monday night’s third quarter.

But just when Lebanon may have felt comfortable with their surroundings, the defending league champions came roaring back at them with a vengeance.

As if to be right on cue, the Streaks proceeded to chip away at the Cedars’ lead, eventually cutting it down to five at 31-26 with 4:30 left to play in the third following an old-school, three-point play by Township 6’4 senior forward, Mickey Stokes, getting the home crowd up off their feet.

From there, the Blue Streaks would rally even closer as a hard-nosed coast-to-coast layup authored by way of Zach Oldac helped slice the Lebanon lead down to just three at 33-30 shortly thereafter.

However, with the Lebanon ship now starting to take on water, the Cedars would be able to plug up the gaping hole at the most critical of junctures, as a magnificent bullet-like pass thrown by Marquis Ferreira out on the perimeter down into the post and the waiting hands of junior forward Isaiah Rodriguez, who then finished things off with a hoop plus the harm, gave the Cedars some much-needed separation at 37-30 with 2:20 left to play in the third.

And with an ever-present flair for the dramatics and back-breaking plays, it seemed only right that the Cedars would be able to have one more before the quarter was over and done with as a scintillating Raylin Pena floater in the lane just before the third quarter buzzer rang out effectively sent the red-clad Cedars into the final quarter with ownership of the 43-37 lead.

Suffice to say, the stage had clearly been set for an instant-classic of a finish.

In fact, that earlier Lebanon lead that had once stood at double digits had now been trimmed down to the slimmest of margins following a pair of Mickey Stokes triples, good for a half dozen of his game-high 20-point outburst on Monday evening, making it a 49-48 Cedars’ lead with five minutes left to play.

Yet while Manheim Township had been looking up at their guests on the scoreboard ever since the back-half of the game’s second quarter, the Blue Streaks were ultimately able to reclaim the lead as their own once again following a nifty reverse finish at the cup courtesy of 6’5 senior forward, Ben Mann, giving Township the 50-49 advantage not even one minute later.

But just as he had time and time again up until that point, Lebanon’s Raylin Pena would continue to play well-beyond his years as the Cedars’ sniper later dialed up another soul-crushing triple, this one giving the Lebanon the 54-52 lead with precious time ticking away.

However, even though Pena had himself a very loud evening, a feat best exemplified by his 17-point showing, arguably the biggest bucket of the entire night would be one contributed by a fairly unsung hero of sorts.

With the game heading down into its final moments, the ball had worked its way around the perimeter of Lebanon’s offensive set and into the hands of Cedars’ senior guard, Joe Lacend. In many ways though, it’s to be expected to see a senior deliver in crunch time, yes? Perhaps, but it becomes it even more astounding in this case when you consider that Lacend had yet to tally anything in the scorer’s book up until that point.

No matter.

With the game – and perhaps the season of sorts – hanging right on the razor’s edge, Lacend proceeded to bully his way through the Township defense and into the lane before finishing things off with a cold-blooded bunny from point-blank range, putting the Cedars ahead once again at 56-54 with just 1:30 still left to be ticked off the game clock.

That said, the Blue Streaks would then answer right back with a critical bucket of their own in the immediate aftermath as a Ben Mann kiss of the glass allowed Township to draw even once again at 56-56 with one-minute left to go in regulation.

So, with the Lebanon having what had appeared to be the last possession of the night following Mann’s gigantic and timely basket, the Cedars began to poke and prod their way around the Streaks’ defensive set to see what they could perhaps exploit in order to generate a walk-off winner. Sensing that nothing was readily available, the Cedars’ brain trust opted to take a timeout and draw something up instead. And while the eventual outcome of the play itself will never be known, what happened next was just as effective as far as the Lebanon contingent was concerned considering Marquis Ferriera suddenly found himself toeing the charity stripe for two after being bumped out high, just behind the three-point arc, by his Township on-ball defender.

And with the poise of well-traveled and battle-tested veteran, Ferriera was able to fearlessly knock down the offering to give Lebanon the celebrated, yet equally nerve-wracking 58-56 cushion with 7.9 seconds left to go.

Ultimately, Manheim Township would indeed have a shot at rebuking Lebanon’s late-game bid steal of a monstrous road victory in the final few seconds before a series of timeouts between the two benches – ala icing the kicker in football – helped drum up all the drama needed for the final piece of undecided action.

After getting the ball down inside off their halfcourt out of bounds play, the Blue Streaks would indeed be able to get a shot up, only to see the ball roll around in a tantalizing fashion before cruelly dancing off the outside edge of the rim with the final horn now blaring out, signifying Lebanon’s hard-fought, well-earned 58-56 crossover victory at Manheim Township on Monday evening.

 

NEXT UP: As far as the Lebanon Cedars are concerned, why stop here? Rest assured Cedar Nation, they certainly have no desires whatsoever of slowing down anytime soon. So, with that mind, Lebanon will now look to build upon their crucial win over Township as they face fellow Section Two juggernaut, E-Town, on Friday night back at home in a game that will go an awfully long way towards helping decide who will get the two allotted L-L League playoff bids that are distributed to Section Two.

For Manheim Township on the other hand, their aforementioned trip to State College must seem like a distant memory at this very moment considering that the Streaks are now just 1-2 since their return, with both of the Streaks’ setbacks coming in results that will mar them in the Section One playoff race. And that doesn’t even begin to mention the early peek at the District 3-6A power rankings which currently lists the Blue Streaks as the #16 team in a field that only enlists a dozen members come the end of the regular season. Now, all that said, if ever there was a team that was familiar with such a scenario, it would be this Township squad. After all, while the clock is now ticking louder than it had at this point last year, the similarities between this year and last seem more congruent than obtuse. First up in terms of righting the Manheim Township ship will come on Wednesday night when the Streaks welcome the Northeastern Bobcats out of the YAIAA into Neffsville for another critical showdown before setting the stage for the arrival of bitter rival Hempfield into their home gym as well come Friday night.

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