They are but fleeting moments in time, one day to be obscured by more significant life events or fade altogether from the memory banks.
Then again, maybe not, because the joyful, dramatic moments of January 31, 2020 figure to stay with the players and coaches on the Cedar Crest boys basketball team for a long time to come.
They will remember the hugs, the shouts and the cheers that were delivered in their home gym of the Falcon Cage after ending a five-year Section 1 title drought with a gritty 53-52 triumph over familiar foe McCaskey on the penultimate night of the regular season in South Lebanon on Friday night.
They will remember two thunderous dunks by Illeri Ayo-Faleye, the high-rising senior forward, they will remember Ayo-Faleye dominating the boards along with frontcourt mate Jason Eberhart, and they will remember the superb effort of often unheralded but critically important role players like Grant Allwein, Cole Miller, Amani Jones and Carson Perlaki, who stepped up huge in the absence of starting point guard Trey Shutter.
And also they will remember cutting down the nets surrounded by family and friends, as head coach Tom Smith wore a permanent smile in the background and when it was his turn to snip a portion of the net.
What could be better, Smith was asked.
“Nothing,” he said, smile still intact.
A few weeks back, following a disheartening road loss at McCaskey, the scene that would play out Friday was far from a certainty.
But after looking a bit timid and uncertain on the Red Tornado’s home court, Cedar Crest was anything but when the time came for the rematch on its home floor.
With a remarkably balanced attack that featured 11 points apiece from Ayo-Faleye, Eberhart and Allwein, 8 from Miller and 7 from Jones, Cedar Crest (19-2, 11-1 Section 1) took the fight to McCaskey from the start, and though they would pull even several times, the Red Tornado (13-6, 9-3 Section 1) would only lead briefly in the 32-minute affair.
“When we played down there, different environment, different gym, I don’t know that we were ready for that moment,” Smith said. “I don’t know that we did anything different than what we did down there, except executed much better. These guys wanted this one. I told them this game was going to be about toughness and guts and it certainly was.”
“The first time we played McCaskey, we weren’t ourselves,” Ayo-Faleye said. “Not scared, but we weren’t ourselves. We knew we were a better team than that, not that they’re not a great team. They are.”
Ultimately, though, the difference could be found in the contributions of role players Allwein, Miller, Jones, Matt Smith and Carson Perlaki, who supplemented the efforts of Ayo-Faleye and Eberhart inside with 31 combined points and just about as many hustle plays and floor burns.
“They stepped up and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Ayo-Faleye said.
“They all rose to the occasion,” Smith said. “Just gutsy.”
Miller was so focused on his work on the court, he couldn’t quite find the words to sum up the magnitude of the win. And he didn’t need to, either. His smile said it all for him.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I can’t even describe it, it feels great. It feels good to step up for our boys.”
And in doing so make some memories that should hang around a good long while, maybe as long as that section title banner hangs on the gym wall.
“It’s all love.We’re all brothers,” Ayo-Faleye said. “We’re gonna remember this moment the rest of our lives and continue to make moments to remember.”
Cedar Crest 53, McCaskey 52
Terry 3 3-4 10, Gordon 6 2-3 14, Ortiz-Gray 3 1-3 8, Thomas 3 0-0 6, Gingerich 2 0-0 6, Byrd 2 0-0 5, Scarborough 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 6-10 52.
Cedar Crest (53)
Eberhart 5 1-4 11, Ayo-Faleye 3 5-8 11, Allwein 5 0-0 11, Miller 2 3-6 8, Jones 2 2-2 7, Perlaki 1 0-0 3, Smith 1 0-0 2, Scipioni 0 0-0 0, Danz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 11-20 53.
McCaskey 13 12 7 20 – 52
Cedar Crest 16 11 11 15 – 53
3-pointers: M – Terry, Ortiz-Gray, Gingerich 2, Byrd. CC – Allwein, Miller, Jones, Perlaki.