Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Klopp, Falcons fly past Catholic
BY MIKE GROSS, Sports Columnist
Cedar Crest's Killian Klopp is a shooter, subspecies fearless long-range bomber.
The Falcons were glad they had one in captivity Monday night.
Crest trailed Lancaster Catholic 50-45 as an entertaining Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff quarterfinal screamed down the stretch, when Klopp nailed a three-pointer from a stride or two beyond NBA range.
A minute later he buried another.
There was a lot of wild business from there to the finish line, but a game that seemed to be getting away from the playoff-green Falcons had turned back their way, and for good.
The Section One runners-up advanced to the league semifinals with a 53-49 win, their first in the league playoffs since, get this, 1976.
Or since coach Tommy Smith's mom was a Cedar Crest senior.
They won it all that time. This time, they're in the semifinals opposite Section Two champion Elizabethtown, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hempfield.
"We talked all week about what it means to be here,'' said Smith, who's the grandson of Cedar Crest football coaching legend Norbie Danz.
"It's a privilege, but a privilege they earned. That's the last thing I said to them in the locker room tonight: 'You deserve to be here, now play like it.' ''
Both sides mostly did. Cedar Crest shot 65 percent in the first half and led by 10 twice and eight several times.
The Crusaders stayed afloat with attacking defense, and by getting to the foul line.
They managed only four first-half field goals, but forced 10 turnovers, and trailed at the break just 27-21.
Catholic doesn't have as many weapons as its recent powerhouses, but the toughness and intensity are still there.
"The physicality of the game at this level is definitely different,'' Catholic coach Joe Klazas said. "We have to control our emotion, play with composure, and understand that it's a game of runs.''
Catholic trailed 38-35 with a quarter left, but a run was coming, and junior big man Omar Lopez would lead it.
Lopez managed just one point in the first half, and had a shot or two altered by Andrew Eudy, Crest's rangy 6-5 center.
"We told him he had to continue to attack,'' Klazas said. "We got him the ball out from the basket a little bit.''
Lopez went to work, making short jumpers and using his body to create space in the paint.
He scored eight of his 11 in the fourth quarter, all part of a 12-4 spurt that gave the Crusaders the aforementioned five-point lead.
Then Klopp, who'd been quiet for a while and even kicked the ball around a little bit, wheeled the artillery into position.
"We let the pressure and the crowd get to us,'' he said, "but I don't let any part of my game affect my shot.''
"We knew he was a shooter, and we defended him pretty well,'' Klazas said. "When a guy's lighting it up from five feet behind the line, there's not much you can do.''
After Klopp's bombs, Crest got two twisting drives from Clay Penchard, an athletic senior swingman type who can get his own shot, and might thus be the least dispensable Falcon.
The second of those drives gave his team the lead for good with two minutes left.
Crest (15-8) was now getting guard help on Lopez, and closing out to the perimeter. The Crusaders' last five possessions came up empty.
Klopp, who as we may have mentioned is a shooter, salted it with three free throws in the final seconds.
Catholic (16-7), the Section Four champ, got 11 points each from Lopez, Erik Goldbach and Evan Purvis.
Only four Falcons scored, and all but three of their points came from Klopp (22), Penchard (16) and Eudy (12).