Strong Second Half Fuels Lebanon As Cedars Power Past Columbia In Thrilling Interdivisional Clash

Written by: on Sunday, February 21st, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final stretch of regular season play is often a peculiar time. On one hand, you have teams that are just going through the final motions of a long and arduous road. On another, you have those teams that are fighting to scratch their claw their way into the postseason, regardless of whichever bracket(s) it may end up being. Lastly, you have those few select squads that are already firmly entrenched into the postseason field, looking to touch up their final product before venturing into the land of “one and done.” This year of course, thanks to the lovely introduction of COVID-19 and a worldwide pandemic, everything is just a little bit different. Most notably, the advent of only Lancaster-Lebanon League section champions getting the nod to advance into the league tournament which gets underway this upcoming week. In that regard, seeing Lebanon and Columbia square off with one another on Friday night high atop “The Hill” on the eastern banks of the Susquehanna left open the possibility for 40% of the entire tourney field going head-to-head right then and there with Section Two and Section Five’s representatives on display respectively. And if Friday night’s intention was to help serve as any sort of precursor of what is to come, the week-long league title chase will be just as exciting as it’s ever been. Yes, even with facemasks, limited attendance, and enough hand sanitizer on hand that could fill a small pool.

As expected, both the Cedars and Crimson Tide took their turns throwing jabs at each other in the early going. Case in point, Columbia racing out to the early 5-0 lead courtesy of a 3-ball sunk by 6’4 senior forward, Brady Smith, before Lebanon stormed right back to take the lead following a pair of Marquis Ferriera buckets, making it a 6-5 lead in favor of the visitors. However, over the course the latter half of the opening frame, Columbia was able to take command of the scoreboard. For that, the homestanding Crimson Tide turned a familiar face, Michael Poole Jr, as the 6’2 senior forward –who it seems like in his 17th year of eligibility by now—finished off a Columbia offensive possession with a lay-in at the cup to help usher the hosts into the second quarter with the 12-7 advantage.

Speaking of making moves, the second quarter on Friday night was where Columbia inflicted their greatest amount of damage.

With their counterparts currently bogged down while amid a serious offensive funk, the Crimson Tide pounced. For that, look no further than Brady Smith’s 3-ball –his second of the opening half—to put Columbia up by a touchdown at 16-9. From there, the high tide kept on rising with a smooth, yet deadly Robert Footman pull up J, upping the Crimson Tide lead out to the largest it had been all night up until that point, 20-9. Ultimately, Columbia was able to expand their lead out to as many as 14 following a pair of free throws cashed in by Poole, making it a 24-10 Columbia lead with nearly half of the second quarter yet to be played.

Fortunately, as far as Lebanon was concerned, Demetrius Matthew and Luke Collins were finally able to break the concrete lid that had been placed on the Cedars’ basket as the Lebanon sophomore and junior duo was able to tally back-to-back buckets with strong and determined takes to the rack, trimming the Columbia lead down to ten at 24-14 with 3:24 now left to go before the halftime break. Ironically, ten points would remain as the buffer between the Cedars and Crimson Tide over the final three minutes and change as both teams retired to their respective locker rooms with Columbia out in front, 27-17.

Once the third quarter got underway, one thing became glaringly obvious. While one Lebanon team went into the intermission, a whole different, much better version of the Cedars had reemerged for the second half.

In fact, for as large as the Columbia lead had been once upon a time, the Cedars wasted little to no time in erasing that deficit down entirely. Case in point, a trademark Luke Collins trifecta which allowed the Cedars to shout back within three at 27-24, before yet another fearless take in traffic courtesy of Marquis Ferriera knotted things back up at 28-28 with 3:40 left in the third frame. On the night, Ferriera was his usual sparkplug self, tallying big bucket after big bucket, ultimately finishing the evening off with a game-high scoring output of 16 points to spearhead the Cedars’ collective effort.

That said, even despite their stellar play of late, Lebanon was about to find out that putting Columbia away was a chore far easier said than done.

Recognizing their once large lead had now been totally evaporated away, the Crimson Tide needed someone in a white-colored uniform to step up and take command. For that, Columbia found their captain in yet another familiar, reliable, and capable solider, Robert Footman Jr, as the Columbia junior guard was able to finish amongst both the literal and figurative Lebanon Cedar tall trees, giving the lead back to the hosts before a sweet Brady Smith spot-up jumper allowed the Crimson Tide to regain the lead once again following an earlier Cedars’ answer, capping off an emphatic rebuttal to Lebanon haymaker that had been thrown at them.

But while the lead had changed hands between the two sides by virtue of what had taken place on the offensive ends, it was perhaps a play on the defensive end that best personified the high level of intensity and fervor that had once again seeped into Columbia’s legendary confines despite very limited attendance figures.

With Columbia having the ball in their hands and the opportunity to exacerbate the Lebanon wound open even further, Lebanon’s Braden Allwein simply wasn’t having any of it as the Cedars’ 6’1 senior forward unselfishly and fearlessly gave himself up for the greater good, erasing the Crimson Tide bucket which would have given Columbia the opportunity to go up by four late in the third frame, much to the delight of his fellow teammates. Then, thanks to Allwein’s charge having served as the catalyst, the Cedars were able to head into the final eight minutes with the 35-34 lead following a cold-blooded jumper sunk by Ferriera just moments before the third quarter horn blared out.

With the game up for grabs heading into the final period, it probably shouldn’t have been much of a surprise at all to see the stars from either side rise up and steal the show with the game heading down the final furlong. For evidence of that, look no further than Kerry “Hov” Glover’s back-to-back takes to the rack, handing the lead back to Columba, 38-35, to help the fourth quarter proceedings get underway. However, here came Lebanon right back into the lead courtesy of a pullup jumper nailed by Demetrius Matthew, making it a 41-40 Cedars’ cushion. And with Braden Allwein’s earlier charge seeming to be contagious, Luke Collins then stepped up and took one himself, negating yet another Columbia offensive trip with nothing to show for it. From there, the Cedars were able to rattle off the next five points, capped off a dead-eye corner trifecta sunk by 5’11 senior, Alex Rufe, making it a 46-40 Lebanon lead with the game now inside the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

That said, Columbia roared right back into the fold courtesy of an enormous three-ball cashed in by 6’2 freshman forward, Brelon Miller, cutting the Cedars’ lead in half, 46-43, before a Luke Collins layup in transition the next trip down the floor upped the Lebanon lead back to five at 48-43. But for as quickly as Lebanon had been able to build their lead back up to five, the Crimson Tide was there to trim it right back down as a pair of freebies courtesy of Hov Glover made it a 48-46 Cedars’ lead with time running out. Yet even with time running out, there was still plenty of it for Michael Poole Jr to have a say of things as Poole’s follow bucket on the Tide’s ensuing offensive possession following a Cedars’ turnover on the preceding inbounds play made things all square once more at 48-48. However, the tie score wouldn’t last very long –mere seconds in fact—as Luke Collins was able shake himself free from the Columbia press, finding a streaking Marquis Ferriera who had leaked out from behind the Crimson Tide defensive troops, as Ferriera’s layup in transition handed the lead right back to the Cedars, 50-48, ending yet another chaotic sequence.

On Columbia’s next trip in the aftermath of Ferriera’s go-ahead bucket, the Crimson Tide came up empty. Not only that, but insult was added to injury when they were called for going over the back on the missed shot attempt, marching Lebanon back down to the other end of the floor with the opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin once and for all. And while they may have the supplies needed to do the job, the Cedars left the door open just ajar as a 1-2 trip to the charity stripe resulted in one last Columbia try with just a small handful of seconds left to go. Granted, while it did come on a good, step-back look, the Crimson Tide’s high-arching shot cruelly rimmed-out on them, resulting in a subsequent Lebanon defensive rebound which also led to Demetrius Matthew getting fouled in the process. Then, with just 1.5 seconds left to play, Matthew’s 1-2 trip to the line proved to be just enough, giving the Lebanon the hard-fought 52-48 final triumph over a game Columbia group in a contest that will undoubtedly serve both teams well as they venture into postseason play starting next week.

“I knew watching (Columbia) on film that it was going to be a game,” a happy, yet probably exhausted Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw admitted following a 32-minute war in which he and his squad ultimately prevailed. “That’s exactly what we needed going into whatever playoffs we make,” he added.

And while the opponents themselves were certainly a worthy adversary, the atmosphere itself wasn’t half bad either.

“Driving here tonight I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever been in this gym before in all my years of coming to scout, coming to watch games, coaching, playing, I don’t think I was ever here,”’ said Speraw. Needless to say, it left quite the impression on the Cedars’ chief boss. “Man, it gets loud. There’s barely anybody in here tonight and it’s loud. I was sitting there thinking at one point, ‘Man, if you put a student section in here and you put people in here, this place has to be crazy and a really tough place to play.’”

“They’re tough,” Speraw said while continuing to laud the efforts of the Crimson Tide. “It seems like they just have players everywhere, you know? They’re not super deep, but all the guys that play do something well. They’re a tough cover. They’re going to be tough in 3A for sure, but also in the L-L as well. I definitely wouldn’t sleep on them.”

 

NEXT UP: For Lebanon, yet another wild week both off and the court helps pave the way for the Cedars heading into this coming stretch of games. Wild off the court because following their setback at the hands of Warwick last Saturday afternoon, the understanding was that the Section Two rep in the L-L tourney would be decided on District 3 power points given that fact the season series between the Cedars and Warriors resulted in a 1-1 stalemate. Then, earlier this week, those in the league power chairs wisely decided that things should be settled on the court, leading to the creation of Lebanon-Warwick Part III for all the Section Two marbles on Tuesday night at Cedar Crest to decide the true winner of the division this season. First for the Cedars though comes a test against Penn Manor at home on Monday night against a Comets squad undoubtedly looking to take their vengeance out on someone giving their last-second loss at the hands of E-Town on Friday night.

For Columbia, all the hay for the Tide is in the barn so to speak. After having already locked up Section Five –in decisive fashion no less by virtue of a clean sweep over the competition this season– the Crimson Tide will await their Tuesday night date against an old, contentious foe in Lancaster Catholic on the Crusaders’ home floor, with the Tide and Crusaders officially raising the curtain on the 2021 Lancaster Lebanon League Tournament. And while Tuesday night’s stakes are obviously big given the ramifications, it may very well end up being the first of two meetings between the two in the coming days as Columbia and Catholic may once again meet for an even bigger prize in the days that follow, the District 3-3A championship, and the lone berth into the PIAA state field.

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