Down by as many as 17 points in the second half Tuesday night, visiting Cedar Crest closed the deficit to five points with under two minutes remaining at McCaskey. From there, the host Red Tornado went 10-for-10 at the free-throw line and came away with an eventual 62-48 Lancaster-Lebanon League Section One boys basketball victory.
With the win, McCaskey (6-1 league, 10-4 overall) moved to within a half-game of first-place Cedar Crest (7-1, 14-2) in the Section One standings. The Tornado also extended their win streak to seven games. That includes last Thursday’s victory over Coatesville, a state semifinalist last season who was up to No. 5 in the weekly Class 6A state power ratings compiled by Daily Item sports writer Michael Bullock.
“Our coaches try to tell us to take it one game at a time,” McCaskey senior guard Elijah Terry said. “But we know these games are just steps toward the bigger goals.”
Terry (20 points, six rebounds) was one of four McCaskey players who finished in double-figures scoring, along with teammates Isaiah Thomas (10 points, six rebounds, two steals), Makai Ortiz-Gray (10 points, four rebounds) and Carter Gingerich (10 points, three steals).
Ortiz-Gray, a 6-1 senior guard/forward, actually sat the entire second quarter after picking up his second foul in the final seconds of the first quarter. His absence took away some size from a McCaskey frontcourt that had the task of defending Cedar Crest 6-7 senior forward Jason Eberhart (12 points, 11 rebounds). Yet, McCaskey outscored Cedar Crest in the second quarter 13-6 and led 24-18 at the half, in part by sometimes doubling Eberhart and getting him tied up and whistled for jump-ball situations.
“The guys just stuck to the scouting report,” second-year McCaskey coach Freddy Ramos said. “We saw a lot of time the ball would go inside and as far as spinning inside. So we really focused on our help coming in. That quarter we talked about it coming out is take away the spin upwards.”
Speaking of defense, the 5-11 Terry did a nice job keeping a lid on 6-7 senior guard Ileri Ayo-Faleye, Cedar Crest’s leading scorer who was held to three points after intermission and finished with nine points, nine rebounds and a block.
“He (Ayo-Faleye) is really athletic,” Terry said. “But the ball-handling might not be the greatest, so putting pressure on him was the key.”
While McCaskey logged its 13th-straight game of scoring 60 or more points, Tuesday’s matchup felt more like a defensive grind at times, forcing an uptempo Tornado bunch to instead find points in its half-court offense.
“Something I saw in them tonight in those moments was sticking to the gameplan and keeping your composure,” Ramos said. “I’m really happy with how we moved without the ball today. That was probably our best half-court offense we’ve played all year.”
Up 26-23 at the 6:00 mark of the third quarter, the Tornado used an 11-0 run to push the lead to 37-23, and later led by as much as 46-29 with 6:38 remaining in regulation. The Falcons went on a 16-4 run over the next five minutes to close the deficit to 50-45 with 1:32 remaining.
Up next: This Friday, McCaskey travels to Hempfield (4-3, 5-9), while Cedar Crest returns home to host Manheim Township (3-5, 8-7).