At the start of any new season, getting off to a fast start is definitely the most desired of routes from which to take. Unfortunately however, especially in the world of high school basketball and yearly tip-off tournaments, that can’t always be the case for everyone. And as it related to E-Town and Solanco most specifically, both squads found themselves having traversed the load less traveled after the Bears and Golden Mules both found themselves in possession of 0-2 records after this year’s opening weekend at the Manheim Township and York Suburban tip-off tournaments respectively.
On the flip side, the good news that awaited either team ahead of their Tuesday night head-to-head affair was that someone was assured of picking up their first win at the conclusion of the evening for a victory that would ignite the winner with a jolt of adrenaline and momentum ahead of league play which starts on Friday night. Why so critical? Well, let’s just say that both the Bears and Mules have the opportunity to culminate the end of the regular season with a berth in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs and quite possibly, a true chance of having a section crown bestowed upon their heads as well.
And with that mind, getting a win on Tuesday night would likely prove pivotal for either squad, as both were searching for a springboard towards accomplishing those tasks and swerving clear of that pesky 0-3 start.
Speaking of fast starts, that facet of Tuesday night’s contest would be won without question by the visitors from Elizabethtown. To be more precise, the Bears came out of the gates by jumping out to a 5-0 advantage just 1:15 into the contest after a 3-ball splashed home by E-Town’s sensational senior big man, Larry Locker. However, the Bears’ early cushion would be whittled down to just a deuce at 5-3 following an old-fashioned three point play authored by Solanco’s stellar sophomore guard, Zed Baker.
That would prove to be all the closer Solanco would get.
Immediately following Baker’s strong take to the rack which had cut the deficit to two, E-Town’s Amos Kollie showed off his fearlessness by coming right back down the floor and finishing through contact for a three-point play of his own to push E-Town’s lead back up to 8-3 at the 5:59 mark of the opening period.
From there, Kollie continued to be best in show.
This time however, E-Town’s steady senior point guard found himself in the holiday spirit by giving rather than receiving as the 5’11 guard dished a sweet lob pass up to the waiting hands of 6’2 sophomore Luke Pierson waiting on the receiving end, as Pierson’s bucket forced Solanco to call a timeout and group with the Bears in possession of the 16-5 advantage with 2:55 left.
Unfortunately for Solanco however, the final minutes of the opening quarter would continue to go the way of their guests. In fact, E-Town would finish the remaining 2:55 on a 6-0 run, capped off by a Larry Locker baby hook, steamrolling the Bears into the second stanza with the 22-9 advantage.
Speaking of Larry Locker, the second quarter on Tuesday night could’ve easily served as his own personal highlight reel.
Sparked by two monster one-handed dunks to start the quarter, Locker continued on his torrid pace by authoring the Bears’ first seven points of the quarter, pushing the E-Town lead up to double figures early in the second frame.
And yet even while the Golden Mules were able to get back within single digits at 28-19 following a 4-0 burst by Solanco junior guard Dom Messano, Locker continued to be a 6’5 thorn in the Golden Mules’ side by getting it done on the defensive end as well, negating a would-be Solanco shot an emphatic rejection that drew plenty of oohs and aahs from the fans in attendance. Yet for as much damage as Locker had been able to inflict upon Solanco in the second quarter, it seemed only fitting that his sweet turnaround jumper just before the first half buzzer just so happened to be the exclamation mark that would send the Bears into the dressing room with ownership of the 33-20 advantage at the intermission.
Coming out to start the second half while already behind by a baker’s dozen, it was imperative that Solanco out with all pistons firing if they expected to get back in this game. Well sure enough, they would.
What started out as a 13 point E-Town bulge was promptly trimmed down to ten at 34-24 following a nice put back by 6’4 Solanco big man, Tyler Whisman. From there, the Golden Mules continued to chip into the lead, getting it down into single figures at 36-28 following a strong take to the cup by senior guard Dawson Kreider.
Just then however, the Bears began to awaken from their third quarter slumber.
Ignited by a corner trey splashed in 5’11 junior guard Brody Beach, the E-Town lead had quickly escalated back up to where it had started, 13 points, with everything happening within what felt like a moment’s notice.
But they weren’t satisfied there.
In fact, the guests only continued to build upon their lead for the remainder of the third quarter as a trifecta, this one dialed up from Dylan Sweger, swelled the E-Town cushion to 48-31 with two minutes still left to tick off the third quarter clock. And when all was said and done, E-Town was able to roar into the final quarter in clear command by virtue of their 50-33 lead.
Once the fourth quarter got underway, it proved to be more of the same for E-Town.
For further proof as to just how dominant E-Town was in the final period, consider this. Following a Solanco 3-ball cashed in Carson Kilgore which made it a 52-38 affair, the Bears went on a run.
How big of a run you ask? Try 13-0.
That’s right. Following the Kilgore triple in the early going of the fourth, the Bears continued to steal the show as a bucket inside by you guessed it, Larry Locker, forced Solanco to burn yet another timeout with the Bears seeing their first victory of the season well in their sights, leading 65-38 with just 2:54 left to play. On the night, Locker would go on to finish with game-high scoring honors by bucketing a 24 night of work from all areas within the half court for a truly well-rounded performance.
Yet even with the outcome well-decided, that certainly didn’t mean that the game itself was over by any means.
In fact, the last few minutes of Tuesday night saw E-Town rising star, freshman Pat Gilhool, get in on the party by tallying a 2-2 trip to the charity stripe in the closing moments of this intersectional affair. At the same time, the Solanco bench would also have their fair share of highlights down the final furlong as evidenced by a 5-0 flurry to close the ballgame from the Golden Mules’ Colesen Sheaffer.
But it all would prove to be too litte, too late in this one as E-Town had successfully accomplished its mission of traveling down to Quarryville and picking up a win, as the Bears made for a happy bus ride home by virtue of their 67-43 triumph.
As mentioned, it has been well-documented that big things are expected out of this E-Town squad this season. And while 0-2 was certainly not the way anyone had wanted or even envisioned things starting, it wasn’t exactly like this past weekend was cause for panic and a reinvention of the wheel. In fact, quite the contrary according to the head coach.
“I thought that we defended really well in both games up until the fourth quarter,” E-Town head coach Rocky Parise said harkening back to the recent Manheim Township tournament. “With the different things that we do, we try not to stay in the same thing very long and I felt we were successful with that,” Parise said.
“When you’re in the moment, you think the sky is falling because you didn’t play that great. But when you go back and look at the film from this weekend, you realize that we played two really good teams in Central York and Manheim Township. And while I wasn’t happy with the results, I felt like we’re doing the right things.”
And if you’ve been following the league for any great amount of time, you are likely already aware that the core nucleolus that makes up this year’s team has been logging the lion’s share of varsity minutes the past few seasons. This year however, one thing seems perfectly clear as it related most specifically to Tuesday night —- These guys are no longer cubs. Now, they have grown up and matured into a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the league to try and deal with.
“I think we had to pull that out of the guys,” Parise said in regards to bouncing back from this season’s early bout with adversity and finding their mojo. “I just think we (coaches) needed to guide them a little bit more towards that and I think that happened today,” said Parise. “We had a really good team meeting at practice yesterday where we talked about a lot of really good things and I think all of that confidence and leadership that we talked about yesterday really came out today.”
NEXT UP: Now, with their first win under their belt, don’t be surprised to see the wins start to snowball for E-Town as the season begins to take shape from here on out. But first, the Bears will play in what quite possibly could be the game of the year thus far across the L-L basketball landscape when the Bears travel to Lebanon County to take on Cedar Crest in a battle between two squads that figure to compete for their respective section titles right up until the bitter end.
On the other side for Solanco, all is not lost after Tuesday night’s setback. From here, the Golden Mules will go back to the drawing board where they will make preparations for an Ephrata Mounts squad that comes calling on Thursday night in a game between two teams searching for that elusive first victory. And if the Golden Mules are able to pick up a win against Ephrata, Solanco figures to be a team worth watching the rest of the way as Section 3 appears to be absolutely wide-open.