Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Spaulding's shot beats buzzer, Cocalico
BY ED GRUVER, Sports Staff
LEBANON -- By game's end Tuesday night, it seemed entirely fitting for Lebanon's Josh Spaulding to have an ice pack in his hands.
After all, hadn't the Cedars' star had ice water in his veins moments earlier?
Spaulding, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, took a pass from Drey Murray and with the final seconds melting from the clock in an L-L League Section Two collision with Cocalico, netted a short lane jumper, the game-winner in a 56-55 boys' basketball final before a raucous crowd here at Lebanon High.
Spaulding had been the third option on the play, Cedars boss Tim Speraw explained. But by the time the ball bounced around the rim before dropping in, Spaulding had his team-high 15th point and his first game-winning basket this season.
"It was ugly," Spaulding said with a laugh, but as Speraw acknowledged, winning ugly has become a theme for these Cedars. After suffering five straight losses, Lebanon has now won five straight.
"So many times it went the other way," said Speraw, whose squad improved to 7-7 in the L-L, 10-9 overall, and moved one game ahead of the Eagles (6-8, 9-10) in the race for Section Two's second and final spot in the league playoffs.
Two games remain in the L-L's regular season. Lebanon is at Section Two champion Elizabethtown Friday and hosts Ephrata next Tuesday. Cocalico plays Ephrata Friday and Solanco on Tuesday.
"You never know (what can happen)," said Eagles coach Travis Wealand, whose team was led by Tucker Lescoe's game-high 25 points and seven threes.
Of Tuesday's final play, Wealand said the Eagles expected Murray to get the ball since he's their leading scorer at 12.4 points per game.
"We got caught over-pursuing and (Spaulding) made the shot," Wealand stated. "That's how the ball bounces.
"I'm proud of the way our kids fought. We really grinded it out."
Despite a terrific night from sixth man Zach Rissler (14 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the field), the Eagles, 52-47 winners over the Cedars on Jan. 4 in Denver, were forced to fight back several times on Tuesday. Cocalico trailed by as many as 12 points late in the first half and by nine with less than four minutes to go in the game.
Threes by Lescoe and Spencer Moser late in the third helped Cocalico claim its first lead since the opening quarter. In the fourth, Lebanon's Evan Zimmerman (11 points) and Blayde Reich traded treys with Lescoe, a fearless freshman who scored 13 in the final eight minutes and drained 3 of 5 from beyond the arc in that span.
Spaulding, who was locked up on Lescoe at various stages, shrugged when asked about him in the aftermath.
"What can I say?" he responded. "He's a helluva shooter."
And it was Lescoe, who scored all but four of the Eagles' 17 fourth-period points, who gave Cocalico its final lead at 55-54 with a layup with 55 seconds remaining. Two crucial rebounds by Jorian Ginnetto (11 points) helped set the stage for Spaulding's dramatic game-winner.
"We got the ball in (bounds), ran (the clock) down and I went to the basket," Spaulding said.
And in the process, carried the Cedars one step closer to the L-L playoffs.