Your source for Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys Basketball

Despite Frantic Finish To Make It In, ELCO Succumbs To Boiling Springs In Opening Round Of District 3-4A Tournament As Raiders’ Valuable Senior Class Leaves Lasting Imprint

Despite Frantic Finish To Make It In, ELCO Succumbs To Boiling Springs In Opening Round Of District 3-4A Tournament As Raiders’ Valuable Senior Class Leaves Lasting Imprint

Written by: Andy Herr on February 21, 2024


If you want to make the postseason, surely you want to get the full experience, right? Well, sorta. As far as the ELCO Raiders were concerned, while they were understandably and rightfully excited about receiving a bid to dance, they probably would’ve preferred the least exciting of options all things considered.

But truthfully, seeing the Raiders make their way into the District 3-4A tournament bracket was anything but a surefire bet even just a few weeks ago. In fact, after a 58-51 on the road at the eventual L-L Section Three champs, Lampeter-Strasburg, back on the night of January 18th, ELCO was sitting with an even 8-8 record with the final leg of the regular season slate staring down the barrel at them and do-or-die being a very valid conversation to have. Suffice to say, the gang from Myerstown needed to get busy. And quite frankly, a little bit of outside help wouldn’t exactly hurt matters either.

To their credit, ELCO did most of the heavy lifting in that regard. Specifically speaking, the Raiders ripped off a very timely 5-1 finish in their final six games to conclude the regular season campaign, a stretch of play where they would score upwards of 70 points in three of those meetings while also scoring no fewer than 65 in any of them. In terms of the black and white of it all, ELCO was peaking at exactly the right time.

The larger question outstanding was, would it even be enough?

Granted, while ELCO did their part in the assignment, it was really more of a group project if you will while paired with District 3 at large as the Raiders had to do plenty of scoreboard watching during the final week of the season in hoping for some extra, outside help wherever they could find it. Again, it can sometimes be a lonely feeling when some things are just out of your control. And that sinking feeling probably didn’t get any easier to suffer through when their chief opponent in the 4A race, Kennard-Dale, stormed back to win at 2A Lancaster Mennonite on the final Monday night of the year which could’ve been a huge death nail to K-D’s playoff hopes. In the long run though, mathematical formula and all coming to their aid, ELCO was finally rewarded with the very last berth into the field as the Raiders received the #10 seed into the 4A bracket, albeit by the skin of their collective teeth.

But who cares, right? Once you get into the postseason all that math and other extraneous outside factors are no longer required. From here on out, destiny is entirely within your control. And within ELCO’s control came a trip to Boiling Springs on Tuesday night against the seventh-seeded Bubblers to raise the curtain on the postseason as far as these two teams were concerned.

Unfortunately, for those with a vested interest into the Raiders’ overall fortunes, the magical run, namely for what will go down as one of the more memorable senior classes in ELCO history most of all, saw the clock strike midnight while over in Bubbletown at the end of this night.

In fact, ELCO’s evening couldn’t have gotten off to a much less desirable start.

For that, seeing the Bubblers storm out of the chute while en route to an 8-0 lead through the first 1:43 following the handiwork of a three-point play tallied by 6’3 senior forward, Brayden Richie, certainly wasn’t planned for in ELCO camp as the Raiders needed to call an early timeout to try and weather the very early storm they suddenly found themselves inside of.

Yet for whatever ELCO head man, Brad Conners, said during that early stoppage inside of the huddle, it’d probably be worth its weight in gold for him to try and bottle up to pull out at a later date no doubt.

Sure enough, following a floater knocked down by 6’2 senior point guard, Dallas George, the Raiders had finally cracked into the scoreboard before a 5-0 flurry authored by 6’0 junior wing, Micah Gray, brought ELCO all the way back to within a penny, 8-7, with still roughly four minutes left in the opening stanza. And speaking of floaters found by way of the Raiders’ senior class, one tossed in by wiry wing, Camden Marquette, would later give ELCO their first lead of the evening at 9-8 before the guests would eventually put the finishing touches on an 11-0 spurt which directly answered Boiling Springs’ earlier 8-0 onslaught.

Finally, as far as the Bubblers’ bunch was concerned, a much-needed bucket contributed by 6’3 junior guard, Brandon Ascione, allowed the hosts to answer back and claw back within one inside of the final 50 seconds which is precisely where the gap remained once this eight-minute basketball version of tug of war expired with ELCO owning the slim 11-10 lead despite down by an 8-0 count right from the opening tap.

Ironically, for as topsy-turvy as the first period was, the second quarter would prove to be far tamer by comparison.

Sure, there would be another Boiling Springs’ triple fired in, this one via Logan Fassl, as the Bubblers’ senior sniper knotted things up at 15-apeice with roughly three minutes have gone by, along with a strong take to the cup courtesy of Ascione which then later put the Bubblers back in front, 17-15, with two minutes left to go in the first half by that point. Fair, but with ELCO appearing to be rather content to try and take some air out of the ball —much to the chagrin of the Boiling Springs’ student section who preferred to see a more up-tempo pace as they made their voices heard – the Raiders were wisely well within the fight once the halftime break rolled around as the Bubblers took the miniscule 19-17 advantage with them into the locker room.

Yet from right from the onset of the third frame, it was evident that Boiling Springs was more than eager to make up for some lost time in terms of getting their offense alive and thriving.

Case in point, following a pair of Bubblers’ triples knocked down in successive fashion thanks to 5’8 sophomore guard, Ethan Yenser, along with 6’5 junior wing, Riley Lucido, respectively, Boiling Springs was found enjoying their largest lead of the evening at 30-20 with a bulk of the third quarter still yet to transpire.

At this point, it was getting late early for ELCO as they say. But for a senior group who has helped take the program to some incredible heights during their days, they weren’t about to let go of the rope. Not here without a fight at least.

In that regard, Dallas George in particular seemed to eager to keep his scholastic career alive and well as the Raiders’ table-setter poured in a pair of 3-balls that came sandwiched around one which he assisted on as Micah Gray took his turn at lighting the lamp from beyond the arc, meaning that George was responsible in some form or fashion for nine consecutive ELCO points when their backs were up against the wall. But perhaps that shouldn’t be all that unexpected for the school’s all-time assist man as Dallas George can call himself. And in a more selfish vain, while he himself probably couldn’t have cared any less, those six points in turn helped George close the book on his high school career with a 15-point performance on Tuesday against Boiling Springs.

As far as the game itself was concerned right then and there, George’s latest 3-ball of the bunch had more importantly cut the Bubblers lead down to three, 29-26, with momentum beginning the wear ELCO’s yellow and blue school colors.

The problem was, that same color palate isn’t much different from Boiling Springs’ set either.

As if to be right on cue, a timely triple cashed in by Brandon Ascione on the Bubblers’ ensuing trip down the floor offensively following George’s latest 3-ball would quickly up the hosts’ lead to a half dozen to create some sorely needed breathing room for the hosts.

But by that point, the rally was on.

In fact, following an offensive rebound and stick-back from the work 6’5 senior big man, Joe Wonders, the Bubblers’ lead was back up to double figures in relatively short order at 36-26 with two minutes still left to tick off the third quarter clock.

Yet did we mention that ELCO had a bevy of seniors who didn’t want this ride to end in Cumberland County on Tuesday night?

If not, look no further than two enormous Camden Marquette steals and finishes as the Raiders’ mainstay in the starting lineup for a few years now helped to stem the tide back in ELCO’s favor somewhat during the waning stages of the third as Marquette would ironically finish the night alongside his classmate, Dallas George, with each bucketing a 15-point performance to their names respectively in this their final outing together.

So, with the lead standing at eight in the form of a 38-30 Boiling Springs’ lead with the fourth quarter getting set to commence, the game was still right there for the taking.

True, but it didn’t appear as if the Bubblers had any sort of desires of being hospitable hosts once the final period got underway as Ethan Yenser would fire in another Boiling Springs’ triple to begin the quarter, another of the litany tossed in by the Bubblers throughout the night, pushing the gap back up to double figures right from the jump.

Even still, being on the receiving end of hospitality or not, ELCO began to whittle the difference back down to size.

For that, a large portion of the credit needs to go to their pressure, pressing defense exerted throughout much of the final frame which in turn got Boiling Springs off their game somewhat with the ball spraying all over the place thanks to what felt like countless ELCO deflections and the like. And suddenly, right on the heels of a Marquette-led 5-0 salvo, one could look up and somehow see the Raiders back within five, 45-40, with now inside of four minutes left to play.

But as would become a prevailing theme throughout the final stages of the fourth quarter here, Boiling Springs would always have the timeliest of answers when the Bubblers needed them most.

In this instance, a tough take to the cup compiled by Brayden Richie on the very next offensive trip for the Bubblers following Marquette’s latest outburst pushed the gap back up to a touchdown at 47-40 with 3:25 still to go.

And while ELCO would counter back with an enormous George trifecta to slice it back down to a four-point Boiling Springs’ lead at 49-45 roughly 40 seconds later, it seemed as if the guests were possibly in the midst of authoring an incredible late-game finish.

However, in perhaps the cruelest of ways possible from their perspective most assuredly, an ELCO steal and subsequent finish at the tin went begging with inside of a minute left as a deuce there would’ve meant that the Raiders found themselves within a pair with all bets being off at that point.

For as fate would have it, that would both literally and metaphorically all the closer ELCO would get for the remainder of the night. There, with the game hanging in the balance, the Bubblers were able to finally push away for good by way of going 8-10 from the charity stripe inside of the final minute to effectively put this one out of reach once and for all.

And once the benches were cleared and the reserves came calling with time winding down, the emotion was visible given the implications. Yet while this game would not end in the Raiders’ favor once the buzzer sounded, perhaps a glimpse of the future yet to unfold was in plain sight as ELCO’s leading scorer on the night, Micah Gray, kissed a 3-ball off the glass as time expired as the Raiders’ upcoming senior figures to play a key role in the team’s prospects heading into 2024-25, especially here following his 18-point performance on the road in the postseason.

But those worries and plans should wait another day down the line. Here, while falling short by a 57-52 final count to Boiling Springs which saw the sun set of their season, it was a hard pill to swallow for the Raiders and rightly so. For this signified the end of the line for a senior group who has run the gamut in terms of high school basketball achievements.

When they were sophomores, they were an integral part of a run to states that mind-bogglingly enough saw the Raiders renew their “rivalry” of sorts against Neumann-Goretti for the second time in the opening round of the state tourney within the span of the last decade. From there, they were also apart of the program’s first section title in over 30 years that culminated that same year as the state berth, the 2021-22 campaign, as ELCO won the Section Four title that season. As far as last year went, it was yet again another chance to dance in the postseason as the Raiders welcomed the juggernaut known as the Hempfield Black Knights, the eventual league champion, into their house filled with “character” shall we say which fortunately or unfortunately is set to get renovated here very shortly. As seniors this year, even more life-long and lasting memories were made when the Raiders were awarded with the chance to play at the Wells Fargo Center back in December, an even more successful trip no doubt in that ELCO would be able to top Wyomissing in a 60-47 decision that afternoon at the Sixers’ home palace.

There were also the individual achievements tallied of course. Chief among them being Dallas George writing his name into the Raiders’ history books by ending his quiet career that seems ripe to only be fully appreciated with age and time as the senior guard now ends his playing days as the school’s all-time assist leader with over 300 along with being its top thief with over 240 and change found in the steals department.

And yes, while there is talent coming back to Myerstown next year and beyond found in the likes of Kaden Shultz-Tillison, Josiah Hayes, and Micah Gray in particular, there is no doubt that there will be a steep learning curve once the balls roll out for practice come November next year. When you get right down to it, maybe having your lasting achievement be found and most felt by way of your absence is perhaps your most ringing endorsement. In that regard, this year’s 2024 ELCO senior class needn’t worry about that occurring and serving as their overarching legacy. For they have left large shoes as a unit for future Raiders to try and step in to. Your turn now, underclassmen.

Follow LLhoops on Twitter @LLhoops

Fifty Years of Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys Basketball
LL Hoops Livestream