Cedars down Eagles on last-second shot Lebanon now leads Cocalico in race for final L-L playoff spot
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
It was heartbreak city for the Cocalico boys basketball team Tuesday night.
With sole possession of second place in Section Two on the line, the Eagles looked to be left for dead down nine at Lebanon with just 3:40 to go. But just that quickly, and on the back of sensational freshman Tucker Lescoe, who scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the final quarter, the Eagles made it all the way back to take the lead at 55-54 with 58 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately, that only made it harder to swallow at the end for Cocalico after Lebanon’s Josh Spaulding’s last-second shot rattled around the rim before dropping through at the buzzer, giving the Cedars an exciting 56-55 victory.
"I was like, "oh my goodness please fall,’" Spaulding said of his game-winning shot.
It did. And because of it, the Cedars (7-7 section, 9-9 overall) now own a one-game lead over Cocalico (6-8, 9-9) for the second and final Section Two L-L playoff spot with two league games remaining. Cocalico, which plays a non-league game Wednesday at Conrad Weiser, has a road game at Ephrata Friday before hosting Solanco next Tuesday in the regular season finale.
Lebanon travels to first-place Elizabethtown Friday before hosting Ephrata Tuesday to close out the regular season. If the two teams end up in a tie, it will come down to tiebreakers, in this order: 1. head-to-head; 2. record within section play; 3. record vs. section champ; 4. regular season winning percentage; 5. District Three power rating; and 6. coin flip.
The L-L League playoffs begin Monday, begin Feb. 11.
"We need to win," Cocalico Coach Travis Wealand said of the remaining games. "That’s the name of the game. But I love our kids. They just work very hard, are great to coach and just never give up. I just wish it could have bounced the other way tonight."
Lebanon led 14-12 after one quarter before opening up a double digit lead in the second. Spaulding, who led the Cedars with 15 points, was the story at the defensive end as well as he covered Lescoe all over the floor. Using his quickness, along with his 6-3 frame, Spaulding held the Cocalico freshman to just three points in the second period.
Point guard Drew Murray, meanwhile, took over at the offensive end in the second, scoring seven of his 11 in the quarter to put the Cedars up by nine at 27-18 at the break.
But the Eagles responded in the third, thanks to a 7-for-10 shooting performance and cut what was once a double digit Cedar lead to just three on Oliver Denlinger’s trey with 2:20 to go in the period. Then after a Lebanon miss, Spencer Moser knocked down a three-pointer to draw the Eagles even, and Cocalico then took a 38-36 lead heading to the fourth when Denlinger drained a pair of foul shots.
While it seemed Cocalico had gained all of the momentum, it was Lebanon which stormed out of the gate in the fourth. The Cedars went on an 11-2 run to start the period, punctuated by a pair of Evan Zimmerman threes to put Lebanon back in front at 47-40 midway through the quarter.
But Lescoe began to catch fire after Lebanon opened up its biggest lead at 51-42 with just 3:40 to go.
The Eagle freshman hit back-to-back threes before Brock Gosling converted a huge putback with 2:16 to go to suddenly make it a 53-50 ballgame. Then, after Spaulding hit just one of two free throws, Lescoe drained his seventh three-pointer of the contest with 1:22 to play to make it a one-point game at 54-53.
Following a Lebanon miss at the other end, Lescoe’s left-handed lay-up with 58 ticks remaining suddenly gave the Eagles the 55-54 lead.
"Tucker is fearless," Wealand said. "He’s a competitor who loves to play. He wants the ball, and wants to make it happen for his team. He’s a great kid and a great competitor and we have a lot of confidence in him when he gets it and shoots. It’s great to see a freshman be able to do that.
Lebanon Coach Tim Speraw also was impressed.
"How about that kid?," he said of the Cocalico freshman. "Holy cow is that kid a player. He never quits and is just a heck of a ballplayer. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at him and he just kept coming out on top."
Unfortunately for Cocalico, it still wasn’t enough in the end. After Moser missed the front end of a one-and-one with 10 seconds to play, the Cedars called time-out to set up the final shot. Murray got the ball and when the defense collapsed on him, he dished it to Spaulding in the lane. The 6-3 senior went right up with it. The ball took two or three bounces on the rim before dropping through at the buzzer, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
"That was very satisfying," Speraw said of Spaulding’s game winner. "We had so many of them at the beginning of the year that went the other way. It was great for Josh. He missed a lay-up with no time left against Manheim Township. That hurt him a lot, so for him to end a game this way is just awesome."
Wealand said, "We needed a defensive stop there at the end, but you could look back to the many possessions before that where a stop here or a decision there makes a huge difference in any basketball game, but especially tonight’s.
"We expected Murray to get the ball back because he’s their leading scorer. And our guards did a great job on him tonight. We just kind of got caught over-pursuing the ball a little bit, and they just made the shot. That’s the way it bounces."
In addition to Lescoe, senior reserve Zach Rissler had an outstanding offensive night for the Eagles, shooting 7-for-8 from the field to finish with a season-high 14 points.
"I’m proud of the way our guys fought and bounced back," Wealand said. "They really grinded it out. It’s just a shame how it ended tonight but again, Lebanon made one more play than we did."
In addition to Tuesday, Cocalico earned a big 49-33 Section Two victory over visiting Conestoga Valley last Thursday night in Denver.
Cocalico got out of the chute early, jumping out to a big 21-6 lead after one period before coasting the rest of the way.
Moser scored a season-high 20 points to lead the way for the Eagles, who also got 11 points from Lescoe and 10 from Denlinger in the win.
CV failed to land one player in double figures.
On Saturday, the Eagles hosted Wilson, the fourth-ranked team in the Districts, in a non-league contest in Denver.
Cocalico hung tough through the first three quarters and trailed just 32-27 heading to the fourth. However, in the final period, the Bulldogs turned it on and outscored the Eagles, 25-14 to pull away with a 57-41 decision.
Lescoe led the way for Cocalico, dropping in 16 points. Moser chipped in with 12 in the loss.
Ephrata, meanwhile, earned its fifth win of the season Tuesday night at home with a 64-51 victory over Conestoga Valley.
Trailing 26-23 at the half, the Mounts out-scored CV 41-25 in the second half to pull away from the Bucks.
Aaron Hubbard led the way for Ephrata, scoring 20 points while Brady Sipe added 16 and Evan Radcliffe chipped in with 14 in the win.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Mounts (4-11 section, 5-14 overall).
Ephrata did suffered a pair of tight losses late last week.
Last Thursday at Section Two leader Elizabethtown, the Mounts stayed with the Bears but never could get over the hump. Trailing by just four points (40-36) heading to the fourth, Ephrata was out-scored 15-10 in the final period to fall short by a 55-46 decision.
Lucas Jewell scored 15 points to lead the Bears while Ephrata’s Radcliffe led all scorers, dropping in 19.
Saturday night in a non-league contest at Dover, the host Eagles edged Ephrata by a 63-60 decision.
In a tight game throughout, Dover prevailed with two players finishing in double figures in scoring.
Ephrata was led by Radcliffe’s 17-point effort while Hubbard and Nathan Zimmerman each added 13 in the loss. More BOYS HOOPS, page B-5