The unbeaten Indians ended the Cedars' campaign with a 60-47 home triumph in the quarterfinals of the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs Monday night.
Despite being tested throughout, the Section Three champions led buzzer-to-buzzer on the way to improving their record to 23-0. Lebanon's loss halted an eight-game winning streak and leaves them at 13-10.
"I'm super proud of our seniors and the way they fought here," Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw said. "That's a good team. They are 23-0 for a reason. We came in here 100 percent believing we could win this game. We came out on the short end, but it wasn't because we weren't fighting."
Matt Foltz fronted a relentless Indians' attack, dropping a game-high 22 points and posing major problems on the glass. Guard Dylan Houseal joined the 6-foot-6 forward in double-digits with 13.
"They're just solid across the board," added Speraw. "Overall, they're so well-balanced and their skill is so well-balanced. And they're big, it's really tough to defend them."
Cedar big-man Josh Spaulding scored a team-best 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Blayde Reich added 10 off the bench. Seven different players scored for Lebanon.
Donegal advances to play Section One champion McCaskey in the semifinals 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Conestoga Valley High School.
"Everybody, the whole week, has been saying, 'Don't look ahead.' Take it one game at a time," said Foltz, regarding Lebanon as a trap game. "I think that was the biggest thing we had to do. When you come to the playoffs, every team is ready to play, every team is a good team. You just got to be ready to play."
The green and white opened Monday night with seven straight points, surging ahead 11-2 in the first five minutes.
"Togetherness. The teamwork. If someone messed up, no one pointed a finger," Spaulding said of Donegal's game plan. "I didn't see one person call somebody out the whole time. They just played together the whole time."
The Indians continued to master chemistry and rebounding in the second, taking their first double-digit advantage to 20-10, at the 5:05 mark.
"It was our backside rotation; just not getting down on the block and (Donegal) being disciplined enough to go after every rebound," explained Speraw. "There were about four or five they got, and they got easy put backs and that really hurt us, really hurt us."
The Cedars relied on the long ball to stay within striking distance. Kristian Sanchez, Drey Murray, Reich and Evan Zimmerman all connected from beyond the arch in the second to keep it a six-point margin at halftime, 27-21.
"Everybody on their team can shoot 3's. That was a tough thing," said Foltz. "They could drive inside and kick it out to really anybody on the team. It's tough to figure out how to guard everybody."
Spaulding closed the gap to four to open the second half and scored 10 of Lebanon's 12 points in the third quarter.
"We started the season slow, started in a little slump. Then something clicked and we had a little turnaround," said Spaulding. "But we hit another wall here.'
The hosts extended the lead back to 43-33 by the start of the fourth.
"It's been the story of this team for pretty much the whole season," Speraw said. "Even when teams get big leads on us, we fight back. Over the last eight games we were always able to overcome it. Tonight it just didn't work out our way."
Leading 52-47 with 1:47 left, the Indians ended the evening on a 8-0 roll, capped off by Houseal's buzzer-beating layup.
"These guys have done a great job all season focusing on game at a time and have never looked ahead to anybody," said Donegal coach Ryan Butt. "Our kids deserve hats off."
Meanwhile, the Cedars have an offseason to dwell on decimal points - specifically 0.001986. Lebanon did not receive one of the 20 Class AAAA invitations to the District Three bracket, finishing ranked No. 23, according to a complex formula generated by a computer.
"Yeah, obviously I think we deserve to go," said Speraw. "I think the human element's missing. It's tough for us that we won eight in a row and miss out by a couple hundredths of a point, mainly based on our opponent's records.
"That's something that we can't change. All we can control is that we won the games. In the end it's on us. We should've won more games early on. We shouldn't waited until the end to win out to make the playoffs. We dug the hole ourselves."
Butt shared the same sentiments.
"It's a shame they couldn't get in. They played great basketball at the end of the season, and you saw how great they played against us," said Butt. "They are in leagues for a reason; absolutely I believe they deserve to be in districts."
DONEGAL 60, LEBANON 47
Spaulding 5 4-7 14, Sanchez 1 0-0 3, Pyles 0 2-2 2, De La Cruz 0 0-0 0, Murray 2 2-2 8, Reich 4 1-1 10, Ginnetto 0 5-6 5, Zimmerman 2 0-0 5. Totals 14 14-18 47.
J. Dietrich 3 0-0 6, Robinson 0 0-0 0, Houseal 5 2-2 13, M. Dietrich 3 3-4 9, Foltz 8 5-6 22, Banwell 1 1-1 3, Hatt 3 0-2 7. Totals 23 11-15 60.
Lebanon 7 14 12 14 - 47
Donegal 13 14 16 17 - 60
3-point goals - Lebanon 5 (Murray 2, Sanchez, Reich, Zimmerman), Donegal 3 (Hatt, Foltz, Houseal).
Total Fouls - Lebanon 15, Donegal 17
Fouled Out - Lebanon: Spaulding; Donegal: None.