The Cedars pulled off the unthinkable in a battle with Ephrata on Lebanon's home court Tuesday night, pulling out a 51-47 victory that went down to the final whistle. Again.
Knowing they had already qualified for the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs next Monday at Donegal due to having the tie-breaker over Cocalico, the main objective was to get the victory Tuesday night to have any hope of getting into the District Three playoffs.
Now the Cedars (13-9 overall, 9-7 Section Two) will have to wait until tonight's games are completed around the mid-state to find out their district fate. Lebanon was 22nd in Class AAAA entering the game, and only the top 20 make the tournament.
"The kids knew if they lost they wouldn't make districts, so this was a playoff game for us, and in the playoffs all you want to do is win the next game, and that's what we did tonight," Lebanon head coach Tim Speraw said. "(Josh) Spaulding, (Jorian) Ginnetto and (Kristian) Sanchez all played well at times and really at some point in time everyone stepped up and did a little something."
Against Ephrata, a quick 6-0 lead brought on a Mountaineer timeout to regroup, and Ephrata still trailed by that amount after the first quarter. However, the Mounts held a 28-23 lead at the break thanks to a seven-point quarter by Aaron Hubbard and another five from Evan Radcliffe to lead the 21-point effort by the Mountaineers.
But in the third, Ginnetto took charge for the Cedars by scoring nine of his 12 points in the period to help Lebanon to an 18-point run that took it from a 30-24 deficit to a 42-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Ephrata pulled even at 42, and the teams were deadlocked again at 45 and 47 before Drey Murray connected on his third of five fouls shots that turned out to be the game-winner with 25.4 seconds remaining.
The game was far from over in that limited time as Ephrata went to the foul stripe but was only able to connect on a pair with 22 ticks to go to make it 48-47. Mark Pyles then sank a freebie, and Murray closed it out with two more.
During that late-game activity, Sanchez forced a key turnover, and Spaulding blocked a shot that the Cedars grabbed to go the other way.
"Kristian getting his hand on the ball and knocking it off their kid out of bounds and Josh's block were just huge, huge plays for us," Speraw admitted with a slight smile. "The run was off of putting a full-court press on them, and we finally got the momentum we were looking for and that carried forward. We've been up and down with foul shooting and that has kept several games closer, like this one.
"Over the last eight games now we made a living off of playing ugly, and that's what it was tonight. We got a little complacent after we jumped out to that lead, but they battled back and late in the game got some stops when we needed them to get the win."
Spaulding (14), Murray (12), Ginnetto (12) and Sanchez (10) accounted for all but three of Lebanon's points.
Hubbard topped Ephrata's list with 17, and Radcliffe added 11.