ELCO Shoots Down Eastern York, Uses Offensive Barrage To Claim Eastern York Holiday Tournament Title
Written by: Andy Herr on Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
If you’re at all familiar with the Lancaster-Lebanon League Boys’ Basketball scene, chances are rather high that you’re probably already well-aware that the Section Four race figures to be one that will be action-packed and will more than likely not be anywhere finalized until the final few nights of the regular season given the list of the list of teams that brought back a bevy of returning firepower back with them this year. Chief among them, the ELCO Raiders.
And for good reason too.
After all, perhaps no squad throughout the entirety of the L-L League boasts as many highly-proficient and sharp-shooting guards than what the Raiders have in their arsenal this year with talented ‘fellas the likes of fearless Bryce Coletti, always-reliable and dependable Braden Bohannon, and the real-life reincarnation of the Energizer Bunny in Evan Huey, to name just a few. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Raiders also brought back arguably the most-talented big man in all the league, Asher Kemble, who acts as the quintessential puzzle piece to ELCO’s spread attack given his tall and lanky 6’7 frame that is not only valuable and relatively unheard of inside, especially at the Section Four level, but Kemble is perhaps even more deadly when he chooses to step out beyond the paint and become the epitome of a matchup nightmare with his smooth and deadly jump shot.
Sure enough, at least up until this point, ELCO has certainly looked the part of a ballclub that figures to make good on those preseason prognostications of being right in the thick of things within Section Four given the Raiders’ 6-2 overall record coming into the new week after dispatching Spring Grove in a 76-52 final decision on Saturday night in the Rockets’ backyard of York County. And speaking of those two setbacks, they most certainly are nothing to sneeze at whatsoever considering ELCO’s pair of hard-fought shortcomings came by a combined total of just eight points against what may eventually end up being the Section One and Section Three champion in Cedar Crest and Lampeter-Strasburg respectively.
So, with the Raiders clearly living up to their end of the bargain and taking care of their business thus far given the relatively lofty expectations placed on them coming into the year, they certainly were in no mood whatsoever to lose that precious momentum heading into the new calendar year when they met up with Eastern York on Monday, a Golden Knights team that had already defeated a Section Four outfit this season in Donegal earlier during the month of December.
Speaking of Eastern York, to say that their Monday had already been a little bit interesting heading into the game’s 7:30 tip time may be a slight disservice. After all, their matchup with ELCO would the Golden Knights’ second game within the span of five hours considering Eastern had just taken care of the aforementioned Spring Grove Rockets in the other semifinal, 53-45, earlier on Monday afternoon.
But for a team tasked with such an unenviable and unheard-of assignment in going back-to-back in such rapid fashion, the Golden Knights certainly appeared to be no worse for wear. At least not early on mind you.
Coming out of the gate strong, Eastern York began the game by throwing and ultimately landing the first punch of the evening, sprinting out to a 5-0 lead after a Trevor Seitz triple just 30 seconds into the contest. And with ELCO plagued by empty trips and a rare bout of cold shooting, the Eastern lead would continue remain steady at five with 3:35 left to play in the opening quarter following a corner 3-ball nailed by the Knights’ Austin Bausman, which was immediately answered by a Bryce Coletti trey on the Raiders’ next trip, trimming the Eastern lead down to just a pair at 10-8.
From that moment on however, the full, unbridled capabilities of ELCO’s high-powered offensive attack would be put on display for all to witness the remainder of the night.
Shortly after bombing in his earlier triple, Coletti proceeded to take his game inside and finish with an easy deuce at the rim courtesy of a dish fed his way by Asher Kemble in transition, giving the Raiders their first lead of the night at 12-10 while prompting Eastern York to call timeout with 2:41 left to play in the opening stanza.
Yet not even their impromptu timeout would do much to help the Knights as the opening quarter given yet another Bryce Coletti take to the tin which gave ELCO the 17-12 lead when the first quarter buzzer would blare out just 30 seconds later.
As far as ELCO’s game plan goes on a nightly basis, there really are no secrets that need to be hidden under the covers. Make no mistake about it, if the Raiders have a glimmer of daylight that comes about after peppering the ball around the perimeter that is within the flow of their offense, they most certainly will hoist from deep. Case in point, the early stages of the second quarter on Monday night.
Like a reliable and comforting safety blanket, the Raiders turned their old friend, the 3-ball, in hopes of gaining some separation from their hosts. Sure enough, their aerial display would not betray them as a pair of back-to-back triples dialed up by Evan Huey and Braden Bohannon respectively, gave ELCO the 23-15 lead with 6:46 left before the intermission, forcing Eastern York to call another timeout in the face of the Raiders’ counterpunch.
Fortunately for the group from Wrightsville, the three-point shot would just as quickly come to their aid as well given the two consecutive treys fired in by Eastern’s Isiah Saahir and Tristan Sawmiller, which suddenly cut the ELCO lead down to size at 25-23 as the second quarter neared its midway point.
But just when Eastern York likely felt like they had dodged an early tidal wave that their guests had generated, ELCO would retaliate right back with a timely spurt.
In fact, following the Sawmiller trifecta which sliced ELCO’s lead down to just a pair, the Raiders went on to author the next five in a row, capped off by a dead-on Ben Horst triple, as ELCO’s 6’1 senior forward upped the ELCO to seven at 30-23 with 3:30 left before the break. As it turned out, that is exactly where the margin would remain from there on out as ELCO darted off to the locker room with ownership of the 32-25 lead at recess.
While the first half had largely felt like a battle of volleys being lobbed back and forth between the two sides, the second half was pure, unedited ELCO Raider domination.
Shortly after the second half got underway, the ELCO cushion had suddenly swelled up to double digits in the blink of an eye following an Asher Kemble follow at the cup with a Braden Bohannon triple added on top, giving ELCO the 37-27 advantage out of the chute.
From there, the Raiders’ lead would reach a baker’s dozen as another Bohannon triple, good for 3 of the ELCO 5’11 junior guard’s 22-point Monday night performance which helped earned him a First Team All-Tournament selection, propelled ELCO out to a 45-32 lead with 4:20 left to play in the third frame. But alas for Eastern York, the hill on the scoreboard must have felt identical to that of the road that leads up to their school campus, growing steeper and steeper by the minute, as an old-fashioned three-point play from Bryce Coletti, the eventual MVP of the tournament who piloted the ELCO effort by posting a game-high 23-point outburst on Monday evening, made it a 52-32 affair in favor of the Raiders with 2:50 left in the third.
Fittingly, yet another ELCO 3-ball, this one courtesy of Asher Kemble, later gave the Raiders their largest lead of the evening at that point, 55-34, at the end of a marvelous offensive set drawn up following a timeout. And once the dust had finally settled on the third quarter, the two scoreboards posted high above either baseline showed ELCO with the firm and commanding 61-37 advantage.
Despite the fact that ELCO was clearly well on their way towards capturing the tournament title in just a few minutes’ time, the Raiders clearly felt as if there was still more work left to do. For proof of that, look no further than Braden Bohannon’s personal 5-0 salvo to get the final quarter underway, ushering ELCO out to the 64-37 lead just 40 seconds into the frame.
Ironically, for as much damage as ELCO was able to inflict on Eastern York from behind the arc up until that point, the Raiders would later find their shooting touch inside the 3-point line as well, such as the case when 6’2 sophomore forward Luke Williams tallied a nice bucket inside with the final quarter staring to churn along. Shortly thereafter, ELCO continued to find success from point-blank range as an Evan Huey layup in transition gave ELCO the gargantuan 73-42 lead with 4:22 left to play.
So, with plenty of highlight reel plays that had already been administered all night long up until that point, it seemed only right that someone from the Raiders’ pool of talented reserves would be the one to cap things off with an exclamation point.
In that regard, ELCO turned to 6’0 sophomore forward, Rheece Shuey, who most certainly did not disappoint, as Shuey’s knockdown jumper in the waning moments effectively capped ELCO’s dominating performance against Eastern York off once and for all, 75-51, as the Raiders made for a happy bus ride back home to Lebanon County with an extra-large team trophy riding back on the bus with them for their troubles after capturing Eastern York’s holiday tourney.
As mentioned, while ELCO does not have a perfect record to their name as they enter the new calendar year, those in the Raiders’ camp are certainly pleased, and deservingly so, with how the first quarter of their season has gone thus far.
“We’ve just been talking from the start, even all summer long, about just getting better every day,” ELCO head coach Brad Conners said bluntly following his team’s win late Monday night. “I think these guys just buy in. We talk about playing to a standard,” Conners added. “And they do. I think tonight, as we started stretching the lead, we even said it in the timeouts, ‘Hey, we’re playing to a standard.’ They don’t really lose their focus and they just keep getting better,” ELCO’s head man went on to add proudly of his squad. “They’re just really fun to be around.”
Suffice to say, ELCO’s performance on Monday night against Eastern York was certainly good enough to stand alone on its own merit. But perhaps what was even more impressive — and something that will be greatly beneficial to the Raiders for the duration of the season as games, situations, and implications only get ratcheted up from here on out —- was the fact that ELCO made a concerted effort to focus on themselves and not get caught up in the frivolous, outside things at play on Monday, especially the fact that Eastern York was coming into the game on literally only a few hours’ worth of rest.
“Actually no, that really wasn’t a focus of mine,” Conners said illuminating his pregame talking points. “My focus was just on us. Like, ‘Let’s just go out, be solid in transition D, limit (Eastern York) shots, and make sure we know where (Trevor) Seitz is at.’”
“I didn’t pay that much mind because (players now) are all AAU’d up,” he added with a laugh. “I mean, you can play a couple games in a day now right? But no, I didn’t really even think a whole lot about that.”
And because his troops had mastered his gameplan and worked it to a T, the end-result may well have been just the beginning in terms of ELCO possibly snatching up even more trophies as this winter moves along. But then again, that isn’t exactly a new phenomenon here for this group.
“We won Sweep The Streets which was really big in getting a couple wins over Lebanon and Cedar Crest,” Conners said highlighting the centerpiece of his team’s summer regimen and the Raiders’ championship in the prestigious Lebanon County outdoor tournament. “But yeah, we talked today about how, ‘Hey, there’s a trophy at stake. We need some hardware.’ But as far as varsity goes, yeah, this is the first tournament title.”
And yes, while this year’s ELCO team is certainly chock-full of visible talent that can be seen by the naked eye, it is their unseen talents, those which consist of their mental makeup, that far and away outweigh any astronomical number the Raiders could possibly hang on a scoreboard at the end of any given night.
“We talk about playing to a standard and we do talk about having a target,” said Conners of his team maneuvering through the world of expectations thus far. “We’re not going to surprise anybody. I think everybody is savvy enough social media-wise to know what schools are returning what guys. Even coming in (to the season), everybody kinda knew we had something here,” Conners added.
“You look at Bryce (Coletti) and Braden (Bohannon),” the ELCO coach illustrated. “If they hit a shot, you wouldn’t know if they missed the shot. They’re just real even and real calm and I think that has kind of filtered throughout the rest of the team in a good way. It’s good. It’s been really good.”
NEXT UP: With the first of what the ELCO faithful hope will be one of just a few titles bestowed upon the Raiders at some point during this season following Monday night at Eastern York, the road ahead in perhaps achieving one of those crowns begins in earnest on Friday night when the Octorara Braves come calling to Myerstown, creating just the first of many Section Four heavyweight matchups set to unfold this season.
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