Home Front end Muhlenberg falls to Cedar Cliff in the closing seconds of the District 3 Class 6A men’s basketball opener

Muhlenberg falls to Cedar Cliff in the closing seconds of the District 3 Class 6A men’s basketball opener

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Feb. 23 – CAMP HILL – Jarrett Jackson thought he won the game Tuesday night with his 3-pointer from the top of the key with 23 seconds left.

The senior guard thought he and his Muhlenberg teammates would party in the locker room instead of shedding tears.

“They’re my brothers,” Jackson said. “That’s what we’ve been doing all season. Losing like this just hurts. Not being able to play high school basketball anymore just hurts.”

Tyler Houser made two free throws with 5.9 seconds remaining to lift fifth-seeded Cedar Cliff over 12th-seeded Muhlenberg 55-54 in a thrilling District 3 men’s basketball game in class 6A.

The 6-9 Houser went to the line after a disputed foul on Muhls star Edwin Suarez just inside the free throw line.

“There are less than 10 seconds left in the game,” said Muhlenberg’s emotional coach Matt Flowers. “You let the kids determine that. Our kids fought the whole game. Cedar Cliff played a hell of a game. I’m not taking anything away from them.

“But with 5.9 seconds left in the game, you have to let the kids determine the outcome, not a grown adult.”

In Muhlenberg’s locker room, Flowers uttered the word “fight” repeatedly as he spoke to his players (18-7), many of whom were inconsolable.

Their tenacity and resilience, which will be remembered as their trademark, was never more evident than on Tuesday night.

Suarez, who was averaging 19.0 ppg, scored eight points in the opening 10 minutes before sitting out with his third foul until midway through the third quarter. He finished with 13 points.

Still, his teammates made sure to get him back, staying within striking distance of the Mid-Penn Conference champion Colts (20-4) until he returned.

Jackson scored 13 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve done it all season,” Jackson said. “We keep fighting until the end, like Coach says. He says it every day. Fight. Fight. That’s what we’re building here.”

“I’m very proud of them,” Flowers said. “They could have quit.”

Muhlenberg led 33-25 at the break and cut it to five on Josh Alcantara’s 3-pointer early in the third. But Cedar Cliff stayed ahead with help from Houser, who finished with 25 points, and Ayden Frey, who had 10 points.

Houser made two free throws with 1:26 remaining to give the Colts a 53-46 lead in front of a capacity crowd. But the Muhls were far from finished.

Tashiro Alexis made a 3 and Luis Valentin floated to make it 53-51 after Cedar Cliff’s Charlie Werner missed the front of a one-and-one.

Then, after Colts coach Tigh Savercool called a timeout to avoid a five-second call, Cedar Cliff turned it over. Jackson then buried the go-ahead 3.

Seconds later, as the Muhls pressured the Colts, Suarez was called for his fifth foul, sending Houser over the line.

“I thought we had a steal, then I saw the referee call a foul,” Jackson said. “My heart just dropped. I thought we won the game with that shot.”

Houser, heading to VMI, confidently crossed the line and did them both. He’s had a number of game-winning free throws this season.

“We knew we were going to fight,” said Savercool, Tulpehocken’s former coach. “Tyler is a senior. He makes time for those times. He’s there when we need him. He rises to the occasion.”

Suarez, on the other hand, sobbed in the locker room afterwards, like several of his teammates, knowing his high school career was over.

Flowers struggled to find the words as he addressed his players.

“They didn’t give up,” he said. “They kept fighting. They kept believing we were going to win this game. We were there. We fought the whole game. They worked hard in the second half.

“I feel bad for our seniors. Some may have played their last game of their career.”