Lebanon Uses Suffocating Effort To Stymie Warwick, Ascend To Top Of Section Two Standings As Cedars Notch Key Divisional Win

Written by: on Saturday, February 6th, 2021

 

When trying to concoct the ideal high school basketball game, there are usually the same key elements at play that help make up the perfect potion. First, make sure that the two competing teams are either rivals or divisional foes. Check. Second, if possible, make sure that it is either the first or only meeting of the year between the two sides to help add an extra layer of intrigue. If one or both are also unbeaten at the time of the game, even better. Check. Third, make sure it’s a matchup that folks have been clamoring for since the offseason. Check. Lastly, if possible, schedule the game for a Friday night, putting it inside the premier high school sports window. Check.

Well, needless to say given that opening rant, Friday night’s game between Warwick and Lebanon inside the Cedars’ venerable home venue was dripping with plenty of intrigue to say the least. And how could it not? On side stood the Warwick Warriors, fresh off two consecutive Section Two titles which they then parlayed into two straight Lancaster-Lebanon League title game appearances as well. If that wasn’t already enough, the gang from Lititz also happened to enter the evening sporting an unblemished record. Opposed against them stood the Lebanon Cedars, a 2020-21 group that is looking to rub elbows with their successful brethren of years gone by, hoping to not only knock arguably the L-L League’s best team off for the first time this season on Friday night, but also hoping to trip up the back-to-back section champs come regular seasons’ end with the Cedars hanging another banner of some sort high atop the already crowded rafters. In many ways, not only would the eventual outcome of Friday night’s game prove monumental in terms of who will go on to claim divisional supremacy, but it would also mark the full-circle culmination of this Lebanon group that has candidly taken their fair share of lumps while steadily gaining varsity experience over the last handful of seasons. Granted, while there is still a long way to go in terms of who finishes where within the section standings over the next couple weeks, rest assured that Lebanon had been successful in terms of raising more than a few eyebrows across the league late Friday night once the final outcome rolled across phone, computer and TV screens for all to see.

As was likely expected throughout much of the initial few minutes, neither side was able to garner much in terms of separation from the other. Case in point, the Cedars and Warriors throwing jabs at one another, only to remain deadlocked at 7-7 following a trademark Luke Collins triple as the Cedars’ 5’9 junior marksman cashed in on his long-range attempt with 4:35 left in the opening period. From there, it was the visitor’s turn to go back in front following a floater in the lane courtesy of Warwick 5’11 junior guard, Tate Landis, putting the Warriors back on top, ending what had been a nearly two-minute long Warwick scoring drought. Even despite their brief inability to put the ball through the net at that time, Warwick appeared to remain undaunted as a 3-ball sunk by the 6’0 junior forward, Chase Krall, put the red-clad guests on top by four shortly thereafter at 14-10, before a late bucket inside from Lebanon 6’0 junior guard, Kevin Smith, trimmed the Warwick cushion down to just a pair at 14-12 at the end of a back and forth opening eight minutes.

At the onset of the second frame, it seemed as if Warwick would be the ones to run away and hide. For proof of that, a 5-0 personal run put together by 5’10 senior guard, Cam Hess, giving the Warriors their largest lead of the contest up until that point at 21-12 with 4:05 left before halftime. That said, the Cedars had a rebuttal up their collective sleeves following the Hess salvo seeing as how Kevin Smith’s traditional three-point play shortly afterwards cut the Lebanon deficit back down to five, 21-16, with the hosts appearing to commandeer the ship in terms who possessed the momentum at that point in time. Regardless, any sort of Lebanon momentum was rather short-lived considering the Cedars then yielded Kai Cipalla a runout opportunity –a sequence which nearly everyone in the mid-state knows the eventual result of – as the 6’4 senior wing’s emphatic one-handed dunk in transition pushed the Warriors’ lead back up to a half dozen at 25-19 which is where the number remained once both teams retired to their respective locker rooms for intermission with Warwick holding serve, 27-21.

Well, while the first half was best evidenced by both teams lobbying volleys back and forth at one another, the second half is where Lebanon steadily and methodically ended up taking control.

That said, it certainly didn’t start off in that manner when considering that the Warriors were able to build their lead back up eight at 30-22 following a pair of Cipalla free throws with 1:50 having ticked off the third quarter clock.

But that’s where the Cedars made their move and were gradually able to chisel away at the Warriors’ lead.

Over the course of next few minutes following the Cipalla freebies, the Cedars proceeded to take off on a 7-0 jaunt, eventually coming back within a point of the Warwick lead following a Marquis Ferreira layup in transition, making it a 30-29 Warriors’ lead near the five-minute mark of the third frame. But the Cedars’ 5’10 junior guard wasn’t done there. No, not when you consider his smooth pullup jumper on the ensuing Lebanon offensive possession, handing the lead back to the hosts for first time since the opening quarter, 31-30. On the night –well truthfully the second half mind you– Ferreira was the straw that stirred the Cedars’ drink as the co-pilot of the explosive Lebanon backcourt erupted for a team-high 18-point outburst, all of which happened to occur inside the game’s final 16 minutes.

However, as was to almost be expected, Warwick refused to lay down. For that, look no further than the Warriors’ two trifectas in the waning few minutes of the third quarter peppered in by Cipalla and 5’10 junior Ryan Fink respectively, helping usher Warwick into the final period with ownership of the slim 36-35 advantage.

Speaking of the long ball, that’s the exact same formula Lebanon deemed apropos for overtaking the lead for good inside the final quarter while never looking back for the remainder of the contest.

Case in point, a pair of back-breaking treys sunk by way of that aforementioned Cedars’ backcourt, Luke Collins and Marquis Ferreira, as the dynamic juniors vaulted Lebanon back into the lead at 43-37 with four minutes left to play. From there, Collins opted for the much less exciting, yet just as fruitful means to help expand the Cedars’ lead from there, cashing in on a critical 6-6 stretch from the foul line that no doubt hit Warwick like a series of perpetual body blows down the final furlong, upping the Lebanon lead to a baker’s dozen, 50-37, with time running out on a Warwick comeback bid. And while Kai Cipalla would do his best to help bring the Warriors back into the fold by nailing a pair of triples in the game’s waning minutes –good for the final half dozen in his game-high 20-point showing— the damage had been done by that point as Lebanon was able to ride a strong defensive performance en route to a 58-43 final triumph, moving the Cedars to the top of the L-L Section Two standings at night’s end.

“Our quote on the bottom of our scouting report was, ‘To be the champ you have to beat the champ.’ We knew (Warwick) was the top dog,” a victorious Lebanon High head coach, Tim Speraw, said moments after his team’s takedown of the then section leader. “Warwick was undefeated, undefeated in the section. After playing everyone else in the section, we kind of knew it was going to come down to us and them. At the same time, it’s not over yet. We didn’t win anything except a game tonight and that’s how we’ll treat it.”

Fair enough, but it’d be impossible to overlook the key contributions put forth by Marquis Ferreira in assisting in the Cedars’ eventual triumph by way of his dizzying second half display. Rest assured it was something his coach was keenly aware of.

“He’s just got to keep playing his game,” Speraw said of his potent starting two guard. “Sometimes he gets down on himself if he has a couple turnovers to where he starts to think too much. He’s the kind of kid who just needs to keep going. He’s got great energy and is always playing hard. We’ll take a couple turnovers as long as we’re getting that scoring output from him as well.”

And while some on the outside may be somewhat perplexed by the Cedars’ win on Friday night, it was a victory that Coach Speraw hopes his troops can take away with some validation regarding their current positing at the top of the L-L League standings.

“I think the biggest thing that when we look back at this game that we take away from it is that we’re better than we thought we were,” admitted Speraw. “I’ve said it all year that I don’t think we’ve played really well all year. We’re 8-2, but I didn’t think we were a good 8-2. I think this game not only gives us the win and gives us the lead in the section, but I also think it gives us confidence and also a reality of, ‘Hey, we can play a lot better than we have been.’ Hopefully the kids see that. I also think that we brought an energy tonight that we didn’t have all year,” said Speraw in closing. “Obviously it was because we were playing another team that’s undefeated in the section. That’s what I talked in the locker room. ‘If you bring the energy, bring the focus, bring the intensity and play together, we’re pretty good.’”

Pretty good indeed.

 

NEXT UP: Ironically, it’s right back to work for the Cedars when they welcome what will likely be the tallest team they play all year when they welcome the Exeter Eagles and their towering front line into town on Saturday afternoon fresh off their key victory against Warwick. From there, the Cedars’ remaining schedule is an interesting mixture of teams to say the least. Among Lebanon’s closing stretch includes the buttoning-up of Section Two competition, the rematch against Warwick, crossover play against a handful of Section One teams, but also an intriguing trip down to Columbia with the Cedars taking to “The Hill” against the Crimson Tide in a matchup of two possible L-L League tourney teams.

For Warwick, all is certainly not lost for what the Warriors hope will eventually be three straight trips back to Manheim Township for the league finals in just a few weeks. That said, the Warriors left themselves nearly no margin for error the rest of the way following their setback at the hands of the Cedars. As far as the Warriors’ impending slate is concerned, the two-time defending Section Two champs will match up with their old friends still found residing in Section One before the red-letter rematch against the Cedars in Lititz next Saturday afternoon in a game that will decide the eventual fate of Section Two supremacy this season.

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