E-Town Stands Tall, Fends Off Late ELCO Charge As Bears Prevail In Instant-Classic To Advance To L-L Quarterfinal Round
Written by: Andy Herr on Saturday, February 8th, 2020
Way back when in a land that is now far and away a distant long ago memory to some, if someone were to have stopped you on the street just a few months ago prior to the start of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys’ Basketball season and say that the E-Town Bears and ELCO Raiders would meet one another on Valentine’s Day night at Manheim Township for the right to settle the league championship in the title game, chances are that you wouldn’t have gotten much in terms of feverish disagreement from most. That said, thanks to the Bears’ and Raiders’ runner-up finishes in Section Two and Section Four respectively this season when coupled with the way in which the L-L bracket just so happened to lay itself out, E-Town and ELCO would indeed get the opportunity to square off and go toe-to-toe with another, albeit in an league tournament dinner-hour play-in game contested at Warwick on Friday night.
And as was almost to be expected, E-Town and ELCO would indeed wage a war against one another that could have easily been deemed worthy of having served as the league championship game.
While ELCO’s bread and butter undoubtedly hinges on their ability to get up and down and floor and play in transition, E-Town would be able to place the shoe on the other foot and beat the Raiders at their own game in the opening minutes on Friday night as a Pat Gilhool bucket on the fast-break helped usher E-Town out to the early 10-4 lead with ELCO needing to call timeout in order to right their ship with 3:08 left to play in the opening stanza.
Sure enough, the Raiders would indeed be able to respond valiantly over the course of the next few minutes following the impromptu early stoppage as an ELCO rally that came punctuated with a Braden Bohannon jumper, trimming the Bears’ lead down to three at 12-9, only to then see a Luke Pierson triple in the immediate aftermath help propel E-Town through the final few minutes of the opening frame on a 5-0 run, giving the Bears the 17-9 lead after one.
Throughout the entirety of the first half –and truthfully the season to be quite honest—E-Town’s Elijah Eberly has proven himself to be an absolute matchup nightmare for the opposition. Sure enough, the Bears’ 6’4 senior post dynamo proved himself to be playing the same familiar role against ELCO on Friday night as a pair of Eberly buckets down low in the paint allowed E-Town to double-up ELCO, 24-12, with 5:45 still left to play before the break.
The bad news for the Raiders at that point? Yes, while ELCO found themselves down by a dozen, the good news for the group from Myerstown was that there was still plenty of time left in the first half to perhaps go off a run to claw back to within shouting distance. And thanks to a 4-0 run authored by 6’1 senior forward, Ben Horst, the Raiders would indeed get back within a touchdown at 26-19 over the course of the next two minutes and change. Then, throughout the final 3:20 of play, the Bears would add a penny to their existing advantage as E-Town went into the recess while possessing the 29-21 lead.
Arguably, one the biggest determining factors as to why E-Town found themselves up at the break was due to the fact that ELCO had been unable to get their high-octane offense in gear up and simply put the ball in the hole throughout a majority of the first half of play. Well, suffice to say that narrative quickly got turned upside down on its head once the third quarter got underway.
Kick-started by a pair of quintessential Raider triples –drained by way of the senior duo of Evan Huey and Bryce Coletti respectively—ELCO suddenly found themselves down by just four points at 35-31 near the midway point of the third quarter before another three-point play, this of the old-fashioned variety contributed by ELCO junior guard, Braden Bohannon, got the Raiders within a point at 35-34 with 3:41 remaining in the frame.
And once the final three plus minutes ultimately did expire off the third quarter clock, E-Town had built their lead back up ever so slightly at 40-37 with the final quarter now getting set to begin.
Despite squandering an early bucket to ELCO to begin the fourth period proceedings, the Bears were just as quickly able to negate the Raiders’ early bucket as a sweet dish from Ryan Parise to Pat Gilhool underneath upped the Bears’ back to three at 42-39.
Over the course of the next 1:30 though, ELCO then began to mount their impending charge.
In fact, it took all of 1:30 for the Raiders to finally scrub away their game-long deficit as a bucket inside by 6’7 senior forward, Asher Kemble, gave ELCO their first lead of the night at 43-42 with 5:30 left to go. From there, a smooth Braden Bohannon jumper –good for a pair of his team-high 17-point outing on the evening—gave the Raiders their largest cushion of the night up until that point at 45-42 shortly thereafter.
However, as was to be expected from a team that largely has spent the last handful of years both literally and figuratively building towards a crescendo such as this, one knew without a shadow of a doubt that E-Town would not go away without a fight.
Indeed, shortly following the Bohannon jumper, the Bears would then offer up their own salvo, this of the 5-0 variety, as a cold-blooded Luke Pierson trifecta later gave the lead right back to E-Town at 47-45 with 2:20 left to play in the contest.
That said, for a team constructed in an eerily similar mold to that of their current counterparts, ELCO would simply refuse to budge as well.
For that, the Raiders handed the ball off to their relentless warrior, Braden Bohannon, in an effort to hopefully bring them home once and for all. And as if to be right on cue, Bohannon would just as quickly end up delivering the goods as the junior’s take to the tin gave the lead right back to ELCO at 49-47 with now 1:10 left separating either side from a crack at the Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers in Monday night’s quarterfinal round.
Unfortunately, as far as those who had traveled down PA Route 501 from Lebanon County would quickly find out, ELCO’s lead would prove to be relatively short-lived in the grand scheme of things.
Sure enough, with the Raiders’ lead narrowly hanging on by a thread up at that point, the Bears would just as quickly end up tearing away that narrow strip of fabric as an absolutely fearless three-point play by E-Town’s Elijah Eberly –E-Town’s high scorer on the evening with a game-high 23-point performance– on the Bears’ ensuing offensive trip put E-Town back in front at 50-49 with under one-minute left to play.
And while the Bears’ last-offensive possession was masterful in its own right, their last segment was defensive play was far superior.
With E-Town using the foul game stupendously with fouls to give down the final stretch, the Bears would then have to continue to dig in following a jump ball that kept things on ELCO’s end of the floor with just 3.4 seconds left to play.
From there, following yet another foul to give, the stage had been set for a round of last-second heroics for the Raider troops should they be able to pull off the out-of-bounds play with just 1.7 ticks of the clock still to go.
However, there ultimately would be nothing of the sort as the far the ELCO contingent was concerned as the Raiders’ 3-ball from the short corner cruelly bounced off the back rim at the final buzzer, giving E-Town the heart-stopping 50-49 final triumph over a relentless ELCO team in the play-in round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Tournament.
“We had four (team) fouls, so something we talked about was taking some smart fouls,” fourth-year E-Town head coach Rocky Parise said harkening back to his mindset heading into the Bears’ final defensive stand. “Luke (Pierson) had four fouls, so we switched Ryan (Parise) onto Bohannon and (ELCO) kept giving it to Bohannon. (Ryan Parise) had a really good second foul with 1.7 seconds left which I thought was big for us,” the E-Town head coach added. “We thought they were going to try and throw that quick lob and we guarded that real well.”
“I feel like our maturity kind of grinded that out for us in the end with our experience because we’ve played in a ton of those games the last few years,” Parise added. “That’s just a credit to our guys for sticking with it, believing in themselves, and believing in each other.”
And for someone that has engineered his team on making this steady, incremental climb up towards the league’s elite over the last few years, the Bears’ head man knew full-well that the odds of eventually running into the ELCO Raiders at some point in time along the way in a game of this magnitude was almost inevitable.
“I said it before the game, we’ve been playing those guys since they were in fourth and fifth grade. We used to play them in all the travel league championships,” said Parise of the battles between this current group of Bears and Raiders from days gone by. “I grabbed Bryce Coletti’s dad before the game and I said, ‘Look man, we’ve been preparing for this game, our teams, since fifth grade because our teams were always the best teams when they used to square off.’ So, we’re very familiar with them and they’re very familiar with us.”
They say that familiarity breeds contempt. Not here though. Not by a long shot. In this instance, familiarity has ultimately created nothing but mutual respect.
NEXT UP: How’s this for a scenario? After knocking off ELCO in the opening round of leagues on Friday evening, the Bears must now prepare to go on the road and face off against the L-S Pioneers in Lampeter in league quarterfinal round on Monday night. Okay, fair enough, but the story gets infinitely more interesting just seven days later when E-Town will then reverse roles and host L-S in the opening round of the District 3-5A tournament in Elizabethtown on President’s Day night.
“It’s playoff basketball, so everybody is good right now. We’re not going in with the mindset that anything is going to be a cakewalk,” Parise said referencing his team’s upcoming assignment. “L-S is going to be tough at L-S. We’re going to matchup with them in the first round of districts too so it’s going to be a really interesting game. We’re excited for it.”
For ELCO, the Raiders will now go back and tinker with some things during the upcoming week before starting off on what they ultimately hope is a lengthy journey throughout the District 3-4A tourney as the gang from Myerstown will start off as the #3 seed in the field with an opening round game against Eastern York, a team that the Raiders ironically beat in the championship game of the Knights’ holiday tournament over in Wrightsville back in late-December this season.
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