Let’s face it. As a true competitor, there is simply nothing better than the thrill of victory. Perhaps the only thing that could make a win even sweeter would be emerging triumphant to break a long and frustrating losing streak. And ironically for both the E-Town Bears and Solanco Golden Mules, Thursday night provided the opportunity to do exactly that.
For Solanco, Thursday’s night victory over Lancaster County Christian in the “Clash for a Cause” game held at Lancaster Bible College saw the Mules pick up their third victory of the season, besting the Lions from the school formally known as Living Word by the score of 53-40. A win which gave the Mules a much-deserved jolt of momentum here down the final furlong of the season.
Yet the story would be a little more different for E-Town on Thursday night. Instead of playing a full 32 minute game against neighboring Donegal, the Bears were faced with the unique and unusual task of resuming a game that was already in progress, as their game against the Indians from a weeks back had to be put on the shelf due to the condensation left behind from a muggy January night which turned the Bears’ new home floor into a skating rink, making it unfit to continue on. “It was so strange,” E-Town head coach Rocky Parise of the circumstances surrounding Thursday evening. “We showed up, there was no Star Spangled Banner, and we started at 6:30 so we actually warmed up like it was a normal game. We literally just picked the game up. It was our ball on the end line and it was 37-28 with 5:52 left in the third and then we just started playing.” Once they did, E-Town was able to come away with the 64-47 victory over their guests from Mount Joy.
When they started playing on Friday night against Solanco, the vibes that the Bears picked up from the impromptu Donegal game were evident as the Bears started off hot, jumping their hosts early to get out to a 6-2 start following a pair of Larry Locker free throws.
But Solanco too would soon display some of their newly-gained momentum as the Mules responded by ripping off a 5-0 run of their to take the lead at 7-6 following a Joey Gote bucket inside before seeing their lead swell to three following another bucket by the Mules’ junior big man which put Solanco up 9-6.
From there, the Golden Mule lead would jump to four following a trifecta splashed in by junior guard Dawson Kreider which made it a 14-10 Solanco advantage before Ryan Sweger would counter with a trey of his own for E-Town to trim the early Golden Mule cushion down to a point, making it a 14-13 ballgame with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.
It would take E-Town all of one minute to overtake the lead in the back and forth battle of the first quarter as an Elijah Eberly bucket in transition put the Bears back in front 15-14 at the 1:30 mark of the opening quarter. Dylan Sweger would be able to only improve the E-Town lead from there as his second trifecta of the opening stanza made it 18-16 Bears advantage before the first quarter would go on to expire with E-Town on top 22-18.
But the early going of the second frame went the way of Solanco. The Mules opened the quarter by rattling off a quick 4-0 charge which was capped off by a Jack Boomsma bucket inside as the 6’2” Solanco senior knotted things back up at 22-22 within the quarter’s first 30 seconds. The Golden Mule flurry only continued on from there as a triple knocked down by Solanco sharpshooter Jon Rush saw the Mules go up by half a dozen at 28-22 at the 4:18 mark of the second quarter.
But E-Town would be able to strike back by ending the second quarter on a 9-2 run as the Ryan Parise 3 ball just before the first half horn sent the teams into the dressing rooms at a 31-31 stalemate after an exciting first half of action between these programs on the rise.
Yet just as Solanco was able to open up the second quarter on a quick run, the visitors from E-Town would do the same to open the third stanza as the Bears rattled off the first six points of the third with an Elijah Eberly in the paint to put the exclamation mark on the Bears’ early second half punch as the 6’2” sophomore put E-Town in front 37-31, forcing Solanco to burn a timeout at the 4:53 mark of the third period.
To their credit, Solanco would be able to regroup and retaliate from there as a Jay Boyle bucket inside would end the E-Town run before a step-in trey popped by Dawson Kreider sliced the Bear lead down to the slimmest of margins at 39-38 at the 2:20 mark of the third quarter.
And although a beautiful set play designed for Larry Locker off a backside screen ended in a pretty alley-oop the towering E-Town big man, a Jon Rush trifecta just before the third quarter buzzer closed the Golden Mule deficit down to two at 43-41 with the game ripe for the final stanza.
Despite the fact that Solanco started off in a hole to begin the fourth quarter, the Golden Mules would quickly answer back as Joey Gote was able to continue his impressive night of work with yet another bucket inside to make things all square at 45-45. But Solanco would see their tie quickly go by the boards as Ryan Parise splashed a cold-blooded 3 on the ensuing possession to give the lead back to the Bears at 48-45 with 4:39 left to play.
Although the gap was small, Solanco would have trouble navigating past the stifling E-Town defense for the remainder of the contest as Larry Locker was able rise through the night sky for an emphatic block that rattled the glass and quite possibly Solanco’s desire to go back inside against the Bears’ rim protector midway through the fourth quarter.
Down on the offensive end, Amos Kollie was later able to push the E-Town lead up to six with a strong, determined take to the cup which gave the Bears’ the 51-45 lead with 1:40 left and time quickly running out on Solanco’s aspirations of picking up their first Section 2 win of the season.
Although the Golden Mules would be able to come back within shouting distance at four following a pair of Aaron Constein free throws, Larry Locker would go on to counter with a pair of his own as the Bears’ junior big man ended the game with high scoring honors by posting a 20 point outing.
From there, Ryan Parise would go on to keep the E-Town advantage at six following a pair of freebies of his own to keep Solanco at bay down 55-49 with 34.8 left to go. On the night, Parise would go on to have an impressive showing in his own right as the heady sophomore guard finished the game with 19 points.
Even despite the hole and time quickly running out, Solanco would have the opportunity for some late game magic trailing by four at 55-51 with the ball back in their hands. But the Claws in #Clawball were out in full force in the game’s final quarter as evidenced by Ryan Parise’s steal on the Golden Mule offensive trip which closed the book on Solanco’s upset bid once and for all as E-Town would go on to prevail 59-51.
Sure, E-Town was able to get credit for the odd circumstances that surrounded the abbreviated Donegal game the night prior, but the Solanco game on Friday night gave truly the young Bears the full, 32 minute complete game opportunity to wash away some the frustration that came coupled with the six game losing streak that preceded the Donegal game.
“It feels good,” Coach Parise admitted after his team’s triumph over Solanco. “We feel like we’ve doing all the right things. We finally cracked that .500 marked at 6-5 and then we had our six game skid to send it back to 6-11.”
But make no mistake about it. E-Town had their fair share of chances to come away with a handful of victories during that aforementioned six game slide. Something that would have given this season an entirely different dynamic. “In three of those six games we had eight point leads in the fourth quarter,” Parise detailed on Friday night. “I think it’s just a matter of us growing up and learning how to be mature and having good possessions at the end of games. We’re getting better at it.”
And once they do, look out. You’ve officially been put on notice L-L League. This will be a team to reckon with for years to come.
NEXT UP: Although this is the time of the year that most coaches, players, and fans are seen scouring the District 3 standings page every hour on the hour to see where their team stands in the playoff pecking order, it doesn’t appear that may necessarily be the case over at E-Town. Instead, the Bears seem to have a firm handle on where they stand while maintaining a true business-like approach to things the rest of the way.
“We’re not really focused on that,” Parise stated in regards to hoping and wishing for outcomes for outcomes that are outside of their control as it relates to a possible postseason bid. “We’re focused on Garden Spot now and we were focused on Solanco today. We’re at this point now where we’re playing for us and whatever happens, happens. We’re striving to go 11-11. For a team that was 5-17 last year and while we’re still somewhat young, to show that type of growth really could build some confidence.”
As coach mentioned in the postgame, next up on the docket for the Bears are the Spartans from Garden Spot. Following the game against GS, the Bears will finish off the homeward mile with matches against Cocalico and Donegal respectively. And as Coach Parise stated, finishing strong would do wonders for this cast of Bears. And with such a core group of returning talent coming back aided by another summer’s worth of productive work and gains, the Bears are likely to be on the rise next season. And who knows? Maybe it all translates to playing this time next year for district and possible league playoff seedings.
Although Solanco has experienced a tough year thus far that has still left them winless within the rigorous neighborhood known as Section 2, the Golden Mules are truly not all that far off. Aided by a restructuring of sections next year thanks to some newly added L-L members that will help breathe some new life into things, Solanco will look to lean on a young and steadily rising core of young talent to carry the baton next year for Mule hoops. Some talent of which has already gained some invaluable experience handling the nightly wars of Section 2. A list that includes but is certainly not limited to Dawson Kreider, Zed Baker, Joey Gote, and Carson Kilgore. You want a darkhorse, or “darkmule” if you will for next year that will turn some heads already? Sign me up for the Golden Mules.