Lebanon seems to have its own version of Groundhog Day playing this season.
With seven of the team's losses decided by fewer than ten points, coach Adam Thornhill's group continues to search for a way to get over the close-game hump.
Unfortunately, Friday night's clash with Hillcrest landed the Jackets in all-too-familiar territory, as Lebanon fell 62-56.
Despite the close loss on the road, Thornhill remained upbeat about his team's opportunities this season.
"Close games like this are great learning opportunities," Thornhill said. "Some people think of a loss as devastating, and it does hurt … it should hurt, but they're always great opportunities to learn. Video is such a great instructor, and we watch video of games, especially late possessions, where we could have maybe done some things differently."
After a slim Hillcrest lead ballooned to 12 points midway through the fourth quarter, Lebanon responded with a rally of its own.
Junior Jack Ehrhardt poured in 9 of his game-high 21 points in the quarter to help key the Yellowjacket comeback.
"Coach said to be more aggressive at half time, and that's what we did," Ehrhardt said. "We came out, and we just tried to put it on the deck and get to the basket as much as we could. We just have to stay together and learn how to finish out games."
While Lebanon had multiple chances in the last minute to cut the deficit down to a single possession, it took senior Cooper Lowe's rebound and layup with 2.4 seconds left in the game for it to actually happen.
Down 58-56, Lebanon attempted to foul on the inbounds play, only to be called for an intentional foul away from the ball.
Four quick Hillcrest free throws from juniors Hezekiah Duke and Shahn Clark locked up the Hornets' win.
Lebanon seniors Connor Hicks and Lowe each scored 11 points to join Ehrhardt in double figures.
For Hillcrest and coach Joel Brown, Friday's victory was a great lead-in to a busy weekend. The Hornets (7-13) host Helias Catholic on Saturday night to complete the back-to-back set.
Leading the balanced Hillcrest attack were sophomore Jaydun Sydnor with 12 points, Duke with 11, and 10 points each from sophomore Tim Washington and freshman Tyem Freeman.
Washington, in particular, was crucial for the Hornets down the stretch, scoring 8 of his ten points in the final quarter.
Coach Brown highlighted the young forward's importance in the game.
"Over the last few weeks, we've been trying to get him to be more physical and aggressive," Brown said. "He's a tremendous athlete and we don't see too many that are as athletic as him. For us to be successful, he's got to be a scoring threat, and for him to be a scoring threat, he's got to be aggressive."
Lebanon (4-18) is back on its home court Tuesday against Jefferson City.
Hillcrest – 62, Lebanon – 56
Hillcrest 11 19 16 16 — 62
Lebanon 6 17 17 16 — 56
Hillcrest Scoring: Jaydun Snydor – 12, Hezekiah Duke – 11, Tim Washington – 10, Tyem Freeman – 10, Shahn Clark – 8, Josh Powell – 6, Cole Pryor – 3, Jevazz Podurgiel – 2
Lebanon Scoring: Jack Ehrhardt – 21, Conner Hicks – 11, Cooper Lowe – 11, Trent Millsap – 7, Harrison Carr – 4, Will Richardson – 2
JV Score: Hillcrest – 76, Lebanon – 58