CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — Since taking over as the head boys basketball coach at Cambridge Springs last season, Becky Leandro has worked hard to instill team-play and unselfishness into the program.
The Blue Devils are getting the message.
As the public address announcer read through the memories and favorite moments of the team’s seven seniors Tuesday night, there was no mention of the 26-point performance Lance Welker had against Titusville earlier in the season. No mention of the career-best 22 points Matt Andrews put up against Harbor Creek.
The only personal highlight mentioned was Welker’s school-record tying 10 3-pointers he made his sophomore season versus Iroquois. Each reflection was on how much each player enjoyed being part of a team that most of them described as a family.
It’s that team attitude that helped the Devils polish off a perfect run to the Region 3 championship on Tuesday night in a 63-41 win over Cochranton.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” Leandro said. “It was a great season and I love these boys. We’re not done yet. We have a lot of basketball ahead.”
The pride Leandro has for her players was evident during the Blue Devils’ postgame celebration. As her players took turns up the ladder to cut off a piece of the net, she stood off to the side — wet from an unexpected shower by those players — grinning ear to ear, even a little glassy eyed.
“Our philosophy is high-intensity. Everything is deliberate,” Leandro said. “And we work as one. I think tonight was another game where we showed intense, deliberate and one.”
A dozen players saw the court for the Blue Devils against Cochranton. Ten of them scored points. That kind of play wore on the Cardinals, who would make a run to cut into the Devils’ lead, then turn around and give up a big run.
“When you see kids coming off the bench constantly — five in, two in whatever it is — that can be mentally and physically tough and can wear on you a lot,” said Andrews. “You have to keep the intensity high. We really preach that in practice.”
Intense is a good word to describe the first 1:30 of last night’s game, which set the tone for the Blue Devils. Alec Bidwell got the Devils on the board just 38 seconds in. Cochranton’s ensuing possession ended before the Cardinals could get across center court when Welker stole the ball away and converted the layup.
Next possession for Cochranton? Same thing. This time Welker was fouled going to the hoop. He made both to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 lead.
Then? Again, the Cardinals failed to get the ball across center court. This time, Welker dished the ball off to Jared Taylor for 2 and an 8-0 lead. Franklin Morris ended the bleeding for Cochranton with a 3-pointer with 6:07 to play in the first quarter.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Leandro said.
Cambridge Springs ended the quarter up 22-10. Cochranton did cut that lead down to seven (28-21) with 3:53 to play in the first half after opening the second quarter with an 11-6 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Jaiben Walker, a trey by Alex Jackson and a deuce by Wyatt Barzak. But Cambridge Springs answered the run with a pair of free throws by Andrews and three straight 3-pointers by Welker to take a 39-21 lead.
Cochranton never recovered. And Cambridge capped its perfect 12-0 region season.
“If you come to the games and you see it and you watch it, we play together. We’re focused,” Andrews said. “It really helps us put a team together. We bond well together. We’ve been playing together since we were little.”
The Devils are 19-3 overall. Cochranton fell to 7-15 overall and 6-6 in Region 3.
Welker finished with 24 points to lead Cambridge Springs. Trent Wheeler added 12 points, including a pair of dunks. Jayden Shinsky chipped in with eight points.
For the Cardinals, Walker and Jon Gallo had 12 points each. Gallo had nine of those points in the third quarter. Morris finished with nine points.