Wilson Rides Emphatic 12-Minute Second Half Display En Route To Victory As Bulldogs Top Cedar Crest In Nonconference Matinee
Written by: Andy Herr on Sunday, January 15th, 2023
All it takes is a quick peek at the schedule to realize that we have arrived at Martin Luther King Jr weekend. And in many ways, the holiday smackdab in the middle of January can rightly serve as the officially unofficial line of demarcation if you will in terms of the halfway point of the regular season as far as the calendar itself would suggest. At the same time however, it’s as if everyone still has half of their season left to go. No, most teams are already well past that stage in respect to their own specific seasons of course. In short, the 2022-23 campaign has reached a bewitching hour of sorts depending on where you currently reside in the standings of it all. Yes, even with some notable surprises who may very well be sweating it out come the final deadline for postseason berths.
For the Cedar Crest, this year largely figured to be a year in which the Falcons expected to contend for a league playoff spot, perhaps even challenging the likes of the preseason’s prohibitive favorite, Hempfield, for the crown once all would be said and done. However, with a roster that could still only be described as “young”, along with the arduous life that comes with residing in the Section One neighborhood of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, it was admittedly a bit of a surprise to see the Falcons hanging right around the .500 mark at the middle of January this season. And in terms of that chase to snatch up one of the division’s two bids into the league tourney, those aspirations only grew steeper in size and stature considering that Cedar Crest surrendered a late comeback on their home floor to a McCaskey squad equally as hungry to make it back to the postseason scene by a 51-49 final verdict in the Falcons’ last time out on Thursday evening. Not only that, but when you also add in the fact that Cedar Crest was found hanging just outside the bubble in terms of the District 3-6A playoff chase coming into the weekend as well, it’s nothing if not understandable to see as to why these next few days will by and large come to define what the Falcons’ campaign ends up looking like given the crucible of factors currently at play for them.
That said, the first matter of business was anything but a layup in terms of securing an easy win following their heartbreaking loss at the hands of their rival in the Tornado. No, certainly not when that meant that a Saturday afternoon excursion into Berks County was next in store against a Bulldogs’ team that makes basketball success seem something akin to that of a birthright over in West Lawn given the caldron of success that the aptly named Matt Coldren has created for his program dating as far as back it seems that memory can possibly serve. Sure enough, this year too appears to no different whatsoever given that the Bulldogs are yet again presiding near the upper-half of the D3-6A ranks which surely made next Cedar Crest’s challenge even that more daunting.
But as we’ve seen time after time after time, that same ol’ blueprint for success for Wilson that is so clearly defined was on display yet again on Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs eventually wore the Falcons down, especially with a key second half burst that proved to be proverbial nail in the coffin in this intriguing nonconference skirmish.
However, what would eventually amount to a 19-point Wilson win certainly didn’t seem to be in the cards, at least certainly not in the early going on Saturday. Case in point, with separation between the two squads being virtually nonexistent, any early salvos lobbed against the opposition figured to be what would break the lead in either team’s favor should they happen to claim such a run. In that respect, that honor would be bestowed upon the visitors as a pair of back-to-back buckets inside courtesy of Cedar Crest 5’8 junior guard Leo Tirado gave the Falcons the 6-3 lead near the halfway mark of the opening frame.
Undeterred however, Wilson was no worse for the wear.
Ironically, almost immediately following Tirado’s latest exploits seen down on the other end of the floor, the Bulldogs would get themselves back on level footing courtesy of a dead-eye triple sunk home by 6’3 senior wing, Aidan Melograna, knotting things up at 6-apiece roughly 30 seconds later. From there, the 3-ball would remain Wilson’s primary weapon of choice as another senior Bulldogs’ senior, Cam Jones, sunk one of his own inside the final 30 seconds of the opening quarter to put the hosts out in front, 15-12, only to see that lead be squandered on the very next Cedar Crest possession as one of the few seniors found inside the Falcons’ rotation, Nolan Groff, proceeded to kiss one off the glass to just beat the first quarter horn, signifying the 15-15 stalemate that both teams found themselves wrapped up at the conclusion of the opening eight minutes of play.
As it turned out, not even a brand-new quarter would do much of anything in terms of keeping either of these two clubs away from badgering one another.
Yes, just when Wilson would find themselves by a very modest four-point cushion, such as the case when senior guard Seamus Breslin decided to tally a triple of his own at the 6:10 mark of the second stanza which made it a 21-17 ballgame, Cedar Crest’s sniper, J’Veon Reyes-Vega, wouldn’t be all that far behind when it came to firing in one of his own which precisely what the Falcons’ senior guard would do at the two-minute mark of the second which cut the Bulldogs’ lead down to the slimmest of margins at 23-22. But speaking of the art of the dialing it up from distance, that continued to remain Wilson’s calling card from there on out as far as second period was most concerned as a Tommy Hunsicker trey which came directly on the heels of Reyes-Vega’s moments before helped the hosts maintain the 26-22 cushion once the halftime intermission eventually rolled around not long afterwards.
The second half though? Well, that’s truly when Wilson displayed that their bark was just as big as their bite.
Sure, while the back-and-forth jostling had by and large continued onward once the third quarter got underway as evidenced when an Aidan Melograna 3-ball upped the Bulldogs’ lead to a 31-25 difference just 1:15 into the frame, that cushion would be cut right back down to four at 31-27 following an Aiden Schomp follow inside near the 4:40 mark of the period. However, while almost impossible to foresee given the way in which the game had gone up until that point, that would essentially be the last time equal barbs would be traded back and forth between the two sides.
Right then and there, undoubtedly sparked by a yet another trifecta, this one splashed home by junior Wesley Pena, Wilson was well on their way to running away with things both literally and figuratively. In fact, the Dawgs’ lead would suddenly swell up to double digits, 38-27, following a Cleveland Harding stick back inside, a bucket which officially signified Wilson rolling downhill at an alarming rate of speed if that hadn’t already become readily apparent to the patrons in attendance. And in many ways, it was certainly fitting to see that Pena would help finish off what he himself had started just moments prior as his buzzer-beating bucket mere moments before the third quarter horn concluded Wilson’s magnificent 14-0 run to close the third quarter over the final four minutes and change as the Bulldogs lugged the sizable 45-27 lead with them entering the final eight minutes of play.
And in many ways, the fourth would end up serving as Wilson coronation.
In fact, part of said celebration would come on the Bulldogs’ initial possession of the quarter no less as an Ofure Odiale bucket tallied inside somehow made it a 20-point lead, 47-27, given the sheer immediacy in which all the events had seemed to transpire. Sure enough, that 20-point bulge was largely the size of the window in which the entire final frame would end up being played within considering that a 5-0 run courtesy of Melograna, the eventual game-high scorer who would conclude his afternoon with a solid 16-point outing, kept the margin right there, 55-35, with just inside of three minutes left to go. Yet in the end, while the eventual margin of victory would not have the numeral 2 placed in front of it, it would end up being a resounding number nonetheless as Wilson had most certainly taken care of business on this day, much to the chagrin of the Falcons fans who had traveled from Lebanon County, considering the 59-40 final difference once the dust had finally settled.
NEXT UP: Now, following their loss at the hands of Wilson on Saturday, Cedar Crest finds themselves at a crossroads moment for the 2022-23 campaign. Beginning this week, the Falcons will find themselves sitting in third in terms of the L-L Section One standings with Penn Manor, arguably the L-L team that had the best week of anyone, nipping right there on their heels just a game behind. And with that 6-7 overall record, Cedar Crest also now finds themselves occupying the #14 spot in the District 3-6A field, two slots shy of rounding out what will be the eventual dozen squads. So, simply put, whether you consider it hyperbole or not, these next few days will be the most pivotal in terms of what the narrative may end up being when it comes to describing this Cedar Crest season. In short, with what will be six days in between games here with Wilson before Friday’s night grudge batch in The Cage against a Hempfield team which dispatched them by a 61-46 count in their lone meeting two weeks before Christmas, the fact of the matter is that the Falcons still have the means to control their own destiny with the entire back-half of the section slate still yet to go, along with key nonconference games on the horizon such as Bishop McDevitt next Saturday.
But hey, let’s not kid ourselves here. Sure, while Cedar Crest most certainly didn’t want, nor likely expect to find themselves biting their collective fingernails this early in the season quite frankly, you know that if there is one school in the entire conference who is taking all of this information into account with an ear to the ground hearing the outside doubt and naysayers grow louder and louder with each passing game, one would think it would most certainly be Cedar Crest. And in a lot of ways, that’s truly the only type of team who may be able to bounce back from a fork a road in the moment such as this. Do it if you feel as if you must, but may we recommend treading very lightly when it comes to counting Cedar Crest out? After all, if ever there was a program that seems to take on and embody the very essence of their head coach, it’s been the Falcons on a perennial and consistent basis under Tommy Smith. So, make of this moment what you will, but knowing that the Falcons will be on the shelf for an entire week with nothing but themselves to work on, it’s understandably a situation that would rightly make the rest of the Falcons upcoming opponents just a tad bit uneasy.
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